Sunday, November 30, 2008

Appalled but Productive

(by John Piper)

The vision in Daniel 8 is appalling. The great beastly enemy of God is allowed to kill huge numbers of saints.

His power shall be great...and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. (Daniel 8:24)

Daniel is made sick by the vision. But in spite of being sick and appalled, he does his work.

And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. (Daniel 8:27)

That is the way it is in ministry. From one day to the next the news changes. Some hits home so close it makes you sick. Some is global and makes the heart tremble. But we press on in the work we are given to do.

How can we do this? One way is to know that we are “greatly loved.” Three times an angel tells Daniel he is “greatly loved.”

  • "You are greatly loved.” (9:23)
  • “O Daniel, man greatly loved.” (10:11)
  • "O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” (10:19)

Everyone who believes in Christ experiences the same:
“But God...because of the great love with which he loved us...made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

You are loved with “great love”—omnipotent love, omniscient love, unstoppable love, eternal love. Therefore, do not fear. Be appalled at the world, and be productive in it.

By John Piper. © Desiring God Ministries.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Don't forget to tune in to the UF @ FSU game Saturday, November 29, 2008!!! ABC Sports coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Gators are 10-1 overall. GO GATORS!!!

(306 KB .wav) "Go Gators"
(176 KB .wav) "It's Great to be a FL Gator"

True Femininity

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

Listen: Download MP3 (54:34)

A Man's Rejection of God Is Bad News for His Neighbor

(by John Piper)

If I want my own way rather than God’s, it is quite obvious that I shall want my own way rather than the other man’s. A man does not assert his independence of God to surrender it to a fellow man, if he can help it.

-Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, 35

Grace to You: Free Sermon Downloads

(by John MacArthur)

John MacArthur’s MP3 sermon downloads are now all free at Grace to You’s website. To browse John’s extensive sermon library, click here.

Echoes of Old Heresies Still Among Us -- A Visit to Divinity Hall

(by Albert Mohler)

Just a few hours ago I stood at the very spot where one of the most significant addresses in American history was delivered -- and where the settled understandings of the Christian ministry and the church's theology were thrown into revolution.

The date was July 15, 1838, the place was the chapel of Divinity Hall at Harvard, and the speaker was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson had been asked to deliver an address to the Senior Class of the Divinity College, and he accepted the challenge. Emerson was then a part-time Unitarian preacher, but his intellectual stature in the movement known as Transcendentalism attracted the attention of the students training for ministry.

More to the point, Emerson had ignited an intellectual explosion the year before, when he was asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. That address, "The American Scholar," was widely understood to represent a declaration of independence for American intellectuals. No longer should American thinkers be slavishly dependent upon European patterns, Emerson declared. This was the time for the emergence of the American Scholar, a new and advanced form of the human thinker; a scholar who would "plant himself indomitably on his instincts" and refuse to be "timid, imitative, tame."

A year later, Emerson rose to deliver his address to the Divinity School. Speaking to young men studying for the ministry, Emerson repudiated Christianity and called the young ministers to trust their own spiritual instincts and to free themselves from the Bible, from belief in a divine Christ, and from any remnant of orthodox Christianity.

"Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that corrupts all attempts to communicate religion," he declared. "As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus." This singular focus on Christ has turned Christianity into an uninspiring religion, he argued. All the "official titles" ascribed to Jesus just serve to make him into a "demigod," Emerson insisted.

Preaching that centers on Jesus Christ as the divine Savior is "vulgar," Emerson asserted. Miracles were eliminated as a possibility. Men and women do not come to be "converted," he insisted, by a "profanation of the soul" that centers on necessary beliefs. Instead, they should be converted "by the reception of beautiful sentiments."

Emerson also attacked the ministers of his day by accusing them of preaching the Bible. So far as Emerson was concerned, the Bible was a dead and lifeless book in itself. Preaching from the Bible will not produce greatness, Emerson explained. To limit the voice of God to the Bible is to shut the voice of God up into a dead book.

"Men have come to speak of the revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. The injury to faith throttles the preacher; and the goodliest of institutions becomes an uncertain and inarticulate voice," he argued.

In other words, the young ministers were challenged to give up preaching the Bible and instead to preach their own religious sentiments:

"To this holy office you propose to devote yourselves. I wish you may feel your call in throbs of desire and hope. The office is the first in the world. It is of that reality that it cannot suffer the deduction of any falsehood. And it is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater of new revelation than now."

Emerson's bold and confrontational call for "new" revelation was translated into his most memorable lines from this historic address -- "Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost, cast behind you all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity."

In other words, he commanded the young ministers to abandon the Scriptures and to trust their own instincts, religious sentiments, and intuitions as all the divine revelation they will need. "Preaching," he explained, is nothing more than "the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties of life."

With his address, Emerson ignited a firestorm. He had boldly and thoroughly repudiated biblical Christianity. His proposal was to replace the Christian faith with a religion of individualistic sentimentality, iced with a coating of moralism.

Nevertheless, even as Emerson ignited a firestorm, the Harvard faculty were themselves mostly Unitarian in outlook. Theological liberalism had already become a fixture by the 1830s. The professors scandalized by Emerson's address might protest his candor, but they had little theological ammunition with which to refute him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1838 "Divinity School Address" was a call to radical theological revisionism, and thousands of ministers have answered his call. It is no accident that evangelical Christianity was so soon set on its heels in Emerson's New England.

Standing in the chapel in Divinity Hall last evening, I was struck by how contemporary Emerson's argument sounds. The call he issued 170 years ago is the very message we now hear from others -- Christianity must change or die. We cannot simply preach a book that is two thousand years old. God still speaks, and a slavish dependence on the Bible is both offensive and ineffectual. Doctrines must go -- intuition and sentiment will be enough.

The issues and arguments are the same. Nevertheless, we have all the evidence we need to show us where Emerson's argument leads. It leads to the death of churches, denominations, institutions, and ministries. It leaves sinners dead in their sins and robs them of hearing the Gospel.

The church has never needed "newborn bards of the Holy Ghost." Instead, the need of the church is for preachers who are skilled in the art of preaching the Word of God -- rightly dividing the Word of Truth, while holding without apology to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

I am glad I visited that historic room in Divinity Hall last night. It served to remind me of what is at stake in our generation -- and for eternity. There are no new heresies, only echoes of the old ones. And yet, the old ones come back again and again.

Just Do It

(by C.J. Mahaney)

I tend to procrastinate. So to fight that tendency, I’ve posted the following quote from a nineteenth-century preacher under my computer monitor. I hope these words inspire you to attend diligently to the most important matters each day, by God’s grace.

It reads:
No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.

-Alexander MacLaren
(1826–1910), Scottish preacher

Related posts in this series:
1. Are You Busy?
2. Confessions of a Busy Procrastinator
3. The Procrastinator Within

Imagine This Happening to You...

This was just emailed to me...


“Blessed be(B) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing(C) in the heavenly places, 4(D) even as he(E) chose us in him(F) before the foundation of the world, that we should be(G) holy and blameless before him. In love 5(H) he predestined us[a] for(I) adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,(J) according to the purpose of his will, 6(K) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in(L) the Beloved. 7(M) In him we have(N) redemption(O) through his blood,(P) the forgiveness of our trespasses,(Q) according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9(R) making known[b] to us the mystery of his will,(S) according to his purpose, which he(T) set forth in Christ 10as a plan for(U) the fullness of time,(V) to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3-10. ESV.)
Two of my children have been adopted into my heart. I pray they will one day know how much I love them, that they will have faith that leads to grace, and I ask God for their salvation. Will these children ever know the affection I have for them as I continually sew the seeds of God and His word? And will these seeds fall on rich soil and grow deep roots or will they drop along the path, onto rocky ground, or among thorns (Matthew 13:1-9). As it is now, training these lambs of God up in the way they should go (Proverb 22:6) is quite challenging as they seem to enjoy reminding me that I am not their biological parent. However, with time I am hopeful their feelings toward me will change and God will be working in each child’s heart.

For Christ Jesus said,
“‘I am the(A) true vine, and my Father is(B) the vinedresser. 2(C) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit(D) he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,(E) that it may bear more fruit. 3Already(F) you are clean(G) because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4(H) Abide(I) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine;(J) you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that(K) bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me(L) he is thrown away like a branch and withers;(M) and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If(N) you abide in me, and my words abide in you,(O) ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8(P) By this my Father is glorified, that you(Q) bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9(R) As the Father has loved me,(S) so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10(T) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as(U) I have kept(V) my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you,(W) that my joy may be in you, and that(X) your joy may be full.’” (John 15:1-11. ESV.)
What beautiful promises our Heavenly Father and His Son have made to us when we have faith that leads to grace. I beseech sovereign God for the salvation of my loved ones, especially all of the children in my home whether they are biological children or adopted into my heart. I encourage you to plead for the salvation of your loved ones as well. For those that do not abide in Him will be thrown away like a branch and wither; and the branches will be gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. Infinitely precious saving grace is my heart’s desire for those I love. Please pray for me and my loved ones and I shall pray for you and yours. Praise God!

Friday, November 21, 2008

[Husbands] Give Time to Your Wife

(by David Mathis)

The apostle Peter writes,

Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

This is strange at first glance. How does caring for your wife connect to having unhindered prayers?

Here’s Wayne Grudem’s challenging commentary:
So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he “interrupts” his relationship with them when they are not doing so. No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife “in an understanding way, bestowing honour” on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.” (1 Peter, 146)

Christian husbands shouldn’t feel that time given to their wives is “time away from the real ministry.” Time invested with our wives is time well spent. It’s God’s will—“a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.”

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By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

A Mother's Hope

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

As mothers who have trusted in Jesus Christ, we have the hope of the gospel.

The gospel begins with some bad news. It confirms the fact that we are all sinful, rebellious creatures. Rebellion is not unique to children today. In Psalm 51, King David laments, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5).

But the gospel doesn’t leave us with bad news. The message of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has come to save rebellious sinners: mothers and children. He lived a perfect, rebellion-free life, fully submitted to His Father, and died a cruel death as our substitute. Then He rose from the dead and is seated now at the right hand of God, the Father.

The truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is our hope as mothers. In his book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp concurs:

“You have reason for hope as parents who desire to see your children have faith. The hope is in the power of the gospel. The gospel is suited to the human condition. The gospel is attractive. God has already shown great mercy to your children. He has given them a place of rich privilege. He has placed them in a home where they have heard His truth. They have seen the transforming power of grace in the lives of His people. Your prayer and expectation is that the gospel will overcome their resistance as it has yours.”

The gospel message should provide us with tremendous heart-strengthening, soul-encouraging hope: Jesus Christ is "mighty to save" (Isa. 63:1).

Our Mothering Forecast

What’s the future for your kids look like today?
Perhaps your home is a place of peace and tranquility, your fears as insignificant as gnats to swat away.

Or maybe trials are washing over you like relentless waves. Your anxieties are consuming and overwhelming. They rob you of sleep and plague your waking hours. But no matter the size or shape of your fears, may I encourage you to take them to the foot of the cross?

The gospel isn’t an out-of-date message; it is the good news of a saving God who is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). So repent from worry and put your trust in the glorious gospel.

My husband has a Charles Spurgeon quotation as his screensaver, which we would do well to have running across the screen of our minds: “As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.”

So let our mothering forecast be one of victory and not of defeat. We have the hope of the gospel in our souls.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh So Thankful!!!

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I give thought to the things for which I am grateful. And though this might not be #1 or even #5 on my list it is definitely on my catalog of blessings!

This Thanksgiving, I am so appreciative that my family and I are better housekeepers than this:

(Moral rating: Average. The ladies do say, "Bohemian", "Hell", "Oh my God" (once), "Tramps, bless them live better than this", and "For Heaven Sake".)

There was another one I wanted to show as well but it had some offensive material in it so I do not want to post it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

VOM Top Stories

Iraq – Two Christian Sisters Killed

On Nov. 12, two sisters were killed and their mother wounded by a gang of Islamic extremists in the Al Qahira section of Mosul, Iraq, according to VOM contacts. The gunmen shot one of the sisters as she was waiting for a bus outside their home. They then stormed into the home, killed the other sister and injured their mother. A bomb placed by the assailants at the entrance of the house detonated as police arrived on the scene, injuring several officers.

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks on Christians that have occurred in Mosul, in recent weeks. Since October, more than seven Christians have been killed and more than 200 families displaced. The Christian community in Iraq is estimated to be 3 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people, or about 800,000. Some Christians believe they are being targeted in an effort to wipe out the Christian community's economic activity and drive believers from the area. Since 2003, Christian leaders, churches and businesses in Iraq have been targeted by Islamic extremists. As a result, many believers have fled.

The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to pray for this family as they mourn their loss and for healing for the injured mother. VOM is working to provide assistance to this grieving family. VOM has also responded with 300 Actions Packs to help persecuted and displaced believers in Mosul. Pray displaced families will return safely to their homes, and ask God to protect them and other believers in Iraq as they risk their all for their faith.

Christian Persecution Intensifies Across China

On Oct. 29, China Aid Association (CAA) reported that since the end of the Olympics in Beijing, cases of religious persecution have increased.

CAA has received reports of intensified religious persecution in Beijing, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Shangdong provinces. In Beijing, Pastor "Bike" Zhang Mingxuan and his family members have been evicted from their home, beaten and arrested. In Heliongjiang province, one city called Yichun recently banned all house churches, CAA reported. In Yunnan province, some house church members were attacked right after the Olympics. In Shandong province, Pastor Zhang Zhongxin was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor, and after the Olympics his appeal was denied, according to CAA.

Meanwhile, CAA has learned that 29 house church leaders have been serving time in labor camps and prisons in Henan province since July 2007. They are accused of being "evil cult" members. One leader was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, which is the harshest sentence against a house church leader in recent years, besides Pastor Zhang Rongliang, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in 2004, for allegedly "attempting to illegally cross the border and forgery of an official document," CAA added.

The Voice of the Martyrs stands with and actively supports Christians in China. VOM encourages you to pray for Christians in China who are facing immense challenges. VOM actively supports Christians in China through Christmas Care Packs and with Christian literature like the Gospel storybook, He Lived Among Us. Pray the Holy Spirit encourages and protects believers as persecution increases in China.

U.S. Department of State Gravely Concerned by China’s Harassment of Pastor "Bike" Zhang

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of State released a statement detailing its serious concern about the brutal beating of Pastor "Bike" Zhang's sons by China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) on October 23. They also condemned the harassment and recent imprisonment of Pastor Zhang by the PSB.

"We are gravely concerned by the brutal beating of Pastor Zhang "Bike" Mingxuan's two sons by public bureau officials. We are also deeply concerned by continuing official harassment of Pastor Zhang, a prominent Beijing house church leader, including his arbitrary detention and the forced relocation of his family," said Robert Wood, The U.S. Department of State, Deputy Spokesman in a press release.

Wood's statement called on the Chinese government to release Pastor Zhang and permit his family to return home. "We call upon the Government of China to condemn the violent acts committed against his [Pastor Zhang's] sons, and to bring to justice those individuals responsible for such acts," the statement said. "We are concerned about a pattern of intimidation of religious freedom and rule of law advocates and their family members. We urge China to honor those international human rights instruments to which it is a signatory that protect the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of religion."

On October 16, PSB officials severely beat Zhang Jian, the elder son of Pastor Bike, after they entered Pastor Bike's home, secured the exits. The officers beat him with iron bars for nearly half an hour. As Zhang lay bleeding profusely, his mother called an ambulance. The receptionist told her a higher government authority had directed them not to dispatch an ambulance to rescue Zhang because he is related to Pastor Bike. Xie Fenglan next called her younger son, who rushed to the house. Authorities also then beat him.

"We are encouraged to see the U.S. government speaking out on behalf of this persecuted Christian family," said Todd Nettleton, VOM's director of media development. "We join with the State Department in calling on the Chinese government to release Pastor Zhang and to allow his family to return to their apartment."

This incident is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to stop Pastor Bike and his family from sharing the gospel in China. In August, two days before the Olympics, Pastor Bike was arrested along with his wife and a co-worker. The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association launched an international petition drive advocating for their release. More than 58,000 people signed the petition, and it was delivered to Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong in Washington D.C. Shortly after the petition was circulated and the Olympic Games ended, all three were released.

VOM encourages you to pray for the release of Pastor Bike and the speedy recovery for his sons. Ask God to protect and encourage them and all believers in China during this challenging time.

The Procrastinator Within

(by C.J. Mahaney)

If I am busy, I must be productive, right? A busy man is a faithful and fruitful man?

Nope. Busyness is no guarantee of productivity, faithfulness, or fruitfulness.

But why? What distinguishes a fruitfully busy schedule from a non-fruitful busy schedule?

I think it comes down to two important points: understanding our sin and understanding our roles. Today we’ll look at our sin and later we will look more closely at roles).

In the last post we looked at Walter Henegar’s candid account of how he procrastinated in getting to the root of procrastination.

In seminary, Mr. Henegar noticed a three-fold pattern of procrastination in his academic life:

  • If it’s not due tomorrow, then I’ll take my time and put off the work.

  • If it’s due tomorrow, I’ll start the project, stay up late, and drop all my other priorities.

  • Once I’ve finished, I’m entitled to a reward.

And then Mr. Henegar enrolled in a seminary course on counseling, where he began to uncover the hidden side of his procrastination. He realized that “my prickly branches of procrastination were being nourished by unseen roots growing deep in the chambers of my heart” (p. 41).

He’s referring here to a diagram called “The Three Trees,” developed by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). The diagram, based on Luke 6:43–45, presents the situations of life (illustrated by sun or heat) that reveal the roots of sinfulness or godliness in our lives. These roots reveal what we really want and believe.

Under the heat of life’s circumstances, we sometimes respond in a godly way, revealing healthy roots that lead to fruitfulness (illustrated by a fruitful tree). Or these situations tempt us to respond sinfully, revealing a bad root and a lack of fruit (illustrated by a fruitless tree). The gospel is the centerpiece of the diagram, giving hope to the fruitless (through repentance) and reminding us that all godly fruit is a result of the gospel in our lives.

When he began recognizing the heart issues involved, Mr. Henegar continued through his semester with a closer watch on the roots of sin that nourished his procrastination.

This is how he describes his discovery:

I began to feel like I was really figuring myself out, and it was still early enough in the semester to think I was staying on top of things. I’d notice when I started slipping blatantly into procrastination, and it was easy enough to stop—at first. But soon midterms hit, and everything quickly fell apart. I found myself pulling all-nighters again, and it was back at square one. Ironically, though, I still had to work on an assignment for my counseling class. I reluctantly dove back, this time trying to get at deeper issues. It wasn’t hard to begin naming things.

Pride was surely operating: every time I pulled an all-nighter to finish a job, I was protecting my reputation before my friends and superiors.

Fear of others was closely related. When I had those mild panic attacks, the fear of others’ disapproval was foremost in my head.

Laziness wasn’t the main thing, but it definitely played a part; sometimes I just didn’t want to do anything.

Pleasure-seeking and escapism were big players, too, though I generally confined myself to acceptable thrills like watching movies and binging on Ben & Jerry’s. (p. 42, emphasis mine)

Mr. Henegar did the right thing after this discovery. He repented of his sin. He repented to his wife for the presence and effect of his sin. And he turned to a group of friends from his local church whom he offered “a standing invitation to show me my sin—and to remind me of the gospel” (p. 44).

What Mr. Henegar discovered was the simple truth that underlying our procrastination—putting off the most important duties we are called to accomplish—was not so much a busy schedule but a sinful heart.

The good news for all of us who are procrastinators is this: The gospel addresses these sins, provides forgiveness of sin, and gives us the power to weaken sin and cultivate true diligence. In the gospel we find hope to address the procrastinator within.


Related posts in this series:1. Are You Busy?2. Confessions of a Busy Procrastinator

The Successful Mother

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering. Success as a mother doesn’t begin with hard work or sound principles or consistent discipline (as necessary as these are). It begins with God: His character, His faithfulness, His promises, His sovereignty. And as our understanding of these truths increases, so will our faith for mothering.

You see, it is relatively easy to implement new practices in parenting. But if our practices (no matter how useful) aren’t motivated by faith, they will be fruitless.

The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Fear is sin. And as my husband has often graciously reminded me—God is not sympathetic with my unbelief.

Why? Because fear, worry, and unbelief say to God that we don’t really believe He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15. We are calling God a liar.

Even in the most trying situations with our children, we have much more incentive to trust than to fear, much more cause for peace and joy than despair. That’s because, as Christians, we have the hope of the gospel.
Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on November 19, 2008 at 01:55 PM in Motherhood

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: Worldliness -- Honest Talk About Seduction

(by Albert Mohler)

My friend C. J. Mahaney and a few of his friends have written a powerhouse of a book in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway). In its essence, worldliness is "a love for the fallen world," C. J. explains. "It's loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God." More emphatically, it is "to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God."

Just in case anyone might miss how to apply this, C. J. and his team go right after major temptations inherent in worldliness. Craig Cabaniss writes about worldliness and media with good insight. To no surprise, Bob Kauflin goes after music, bringing the same theological insights he brings to his music ministry. Take this zinger, for example: Bob warns that a sign that music has become an idol is when our passion for Christ has waned but our passion for music has not.

Dave Harvey writes about worldliness and "our stuff." (Loved his warning about "virtual giving.") C. J. then turns to worldliness and dress, offering good and much needed advice, and Jeff Purswell then concludes by talking about the Christian's right understanding of the world.

We are not here by accident.

Worldliness offers other good features, including a foreword by John Piper. Most importantly, the book is Gospel-centered and avoids both legalism and antinomianism. It is also well-timed for the Christmas season. Read it, savor it, ponder it . . . and then give a copy to someone else.

A Mother's Faith

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

Many years ago, CJ and I had breakfast with a prominent Christian leader. At one point the man turned his attention to me and said, "So tell me about your old are they, did you say?"

"Six, ten, and eleven," I replied.

"Ah," he said, leaning back in his chair with a smile. "Those are delightful ages. They still think Mommy and Daddy are the most wonderful people in the world. But all that changes when the teenage years come."

My breakfast--not to mention my day--was spoiled. That sense of dread at the approach of my daughters' teenage years, always nipping at the edges of my imagination, played out once again in panoramic view: the little hints of trouble, the minor instances of disobedience--where would it all lead?

Nicole has been disrespectful lately. Is this the first sign of full-fledged rebellion? Sometimes Kristin is so quiet. Will she become more withdrawn. Janelle's mischievous streak could mean real trouble in a few years. Things will probably get worse and worse, and soon my daughters won't even like me anymore. What can I do to stop this from happening?

"What are your daughters' names?" The benign question jolted me back to reality. I managed to stammer a response, and the conversation moved on. But the gnawing feeling in my stomach remained.

Whether your child is six or sixteen, the temptation to fear for their future is great. That's why we're going to talk about A Mother's Faith here on girltalk this week. So, have a seat at our kitchen table and let's chat.

What I Wish I’d Done

Many years after this fear-prompting meal, I was faced with another question. This time, CJ and I, along with Nicole and Janelle (Kristin was living in Chicago at the time) were being interviewed at a parents’ meeting at our church. The moderator asked CJ and me, “If you could parent your daughters all over again, what would you do differently?”

It was not a tough question. While I am aware of numerous ways I would want to be a better mom, one thing stands out far ahead of the rest.

I wish I had trusted God more.

For every fearful peek into the future, I wish I had looked to Christ instead. For each imaginary trouble conjured up, I wish I had recalled the specific, unfailing faithfulness of God. In place of dismay and dread, I wish I had exhibited hope and joy. I wish I had approached mothering like the preacher Charles Spurgeon approached his job: “forecasting victory, not foreboding defeat.”

What mothering failures have you predicted lately? What fears about your children lurk around the edges of your mind—or even dominate your thoughts? Do you assume things will only get worse? Are you anxious about the future and tempted to despair?

As women, we’re all vulnerable to fear, worry, and anxiety. And few areas tempt us more than mothering. But faith must dictate our mothering, not fear. Faith, as it says in Hebrews is the ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’” (Heb 11.1).

Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering.

More tomorrow... [at]

Book Review: Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

(by Justin Taylor)

A while back my wife and I caught a portion of a radio interview of Tim Kimmel by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Kimmel was speaking about his book, Grace-Based Parenting.

When we returned, I sent off a note to Sally Michael, Minister for Parenting and Discipleship at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Now Sally has very high standards when it comes to books on parenting. She is not easily impressed. So I was surprised when she was so enthusiastic about this book. In fact, she said she would now rank it in the top 3 of books she's read on parenting. (On her list, #1 is Shepherding a Child's Heart, and #2 is Teach Them Diligently.)

Since I don't yet have the book, I asked Sally if she'd consider writing a blurb of the book to post here. This is what she sent me:

Author Tim Kimmel has written a book that helps parents navigate the dangers of two extremes in parenting—legalism and permissiveness. He clearly describes a style of parenting that preserves the need for boundaries, obedience, respect, and discipline but which also appropriately considers “the three driving needs” of children—a need for security, a need for significance, and a need for strength. He does this by focusing in on the climate in the home. He accurately observes that there is a place for rules and strictness in the home, but how they are presented makes “all the difference on how they are received.”

Kimmel observes that much of the parenting of Christians is based on fear—fear of the world and the deteriorating culture, fear of other parents, and fear of the opinions of the church. This in turn encourages parents to focus on behavior rather than on the heart of their children. Kimmel instead encourages parents to parent their children as God parents His children—with grace. “Grace-based parenting mirrors God’s love, reflects His forgiveness, and displaces fear as a motivator for the choices we make.”

Grace-Based Parenting points out the fallacy of basing our parenting on the desire to raise “safe Christian children” by depending on the control of the environment around our children in order to shape them. He calls this a “disaster in the making” and warns that this effort “will produce shallow faith and wimpy believers.” Instead, Kimmel urges us to raise strong children and to move beyond outer problems and address the inner problems of our children.

One of the most critical strengths of this book is the atmosphere of grace in the home that Kimmel portrays as well as the matter-of-fact, yet gracious manner in which he notes that parents and children are sinners and must be dealt with as sinners. Consider these comments from the chapter, "The Freedom to Make Mistakes":

“Legalistic parents maintain a relationship with God through obedience to a standard. The goal of this when it comes to their children is to keep sin from getting into their home. They do their best to create an environment that controls as many of the avenues as possible that sin could use to work its way into the inner sanctum…. It’s as though the power to sin or not to sin was somehow connected to their personal will power and resolve…. These families are preoccupied with keeping sin out by putting a fence between them and the world.

The difference with grace-based families is that they don’t bother spending much time putting fences up because they know full well that sin is already present and accounted for inside their family. To these types of parents, sin is not an action or an object that penetrates their defenses; it is a preexisting condition that permeates their being. The graceless home requires kids to be good and gets angry and punishes them when they are bad. The grace-based home assumes kids will struggle with sin and helps them learn how to tap into God’s power to help them get stronger.

It’s not that grace-based homes don’t take their children’s sin seriously. Nor is it that grace-based homes circumvent consequences. It isn’t even that grace-based homes do nothing to protect their children from attacks and temptations that threaten them from the outside. They do all these things, but not for the same reasons. Grace-based homes aren’t trusting in the moral safety of their home or the spiritual environment they’ve created to empower their children to resist sin…. They assume that sin is an ongoing dilemma that their children must constantly contend with.

[Children in a grace-based family] are accepted as sinners who desire to become more like Christ rather than be seen as nice Christian kids trying to maintain a good moral code. Grace is committed to bringing children up from their sin; legalism puts them on a high standard and works overtime to keep them from falling down.

Grace understands that the only real solution for our children’s sin is the work of Christ on their behalf…. Legalism uses outside forces to help children maintain their moral walk. Their strength is based on the environment they live in. Grace, on the other hand, sees the strength of children by what is inside them—more specifically, Who is inside them.”

Dr. Tim Kimmel has effectively and winsomely written a much-needed message to Christian parents.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lesson from the Vineyard

(by Jim Smith)

Listen: A Lesson from the Vineyard

Notes from Message:

"'I am the (A) true vine, and my Father is (B) the vinedresser. 2(C) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit(D) he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, (E) that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already(F) you are clean(G) because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4(H) Abide(I) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; (J) you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that(K) bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me(L) he is thrown away like a branch and withers; (M) and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If(N) you abide in me, and my words abide in you, (O) ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8(P) By this my Father is glorified, that you(Q) bear much fruit and so prove to be my
disciples. 9(R) As the Father has loved me, (S) so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10(T) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as(U) I have kept(V) my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, (W) that my joy may be in you, and that(X) your joy may be full." (John 15:1-11. ESV.)

(To dig deeper into the word and have a fuller understanding, click on the lettered cross references.)

1. The true vine and the vinedresser.
- Christ is the head and we are the body.
- Christ is the husband and the church is the bride.
- Christ is the vine and we are the branches.

The vinedresser/gardener is God.

2. Fruitless branches.
- "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;"
- "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they
gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."

Fruitless branches - example: Judas
- He appeared saved but was not. He wanted what was on the Master's table but did not
want to follow the Master.
- The seed (Matthew 13:1-9) that does not have roots.

"Then he will say to those on his left, (A) 'Depart from me, you(B) cursed, into(C) the eternal fire prepared for(D) the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41. ESV.)

"They will suffer the punishment of (A) eternal destruction, (B) away from[a] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might," (2 Thess 1:9. ESV.)

3. Fruit bearing branches.
- "and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."

Pruning hurts.

11(A) "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields(B) the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11. ESV.)

"Abide in Me and I in you."

"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for(C) it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for(D) his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13. ESV.)

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, (A) 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will(B) know the truth, and the truth(C) will set you free.'" (John 8:31-32. ESV.)

Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.

How I Approach God When Feeling Rotten

(by John Piper)

A vague bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.

This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?

Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful. The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.

So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.

  • Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Not 95%, 100%. (Matthew 22:37)

  • Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be as eager for things to go well for him as you are for things to go well for you. (Matthew 22:39)

  • Do all things without grumbling. No grumbling—inside or outside. (Philippians 2:14)

  • Cast all your anxieties on him—so you are not being weighed down by it anymore. (1 Peter 5:7)

  • Only say things that give grace to others—especially those closest to you. (Ephesians 4:29)

  • Redeem the time. Don’t fritter or dawdle. (Ephesians 5:16)

  • Set your mind on things that are above. Connect all your thoughts to Christ. (Colossians 3:2)

  • Do not return evil for evil—like when your wife or daughter says something you don’t like. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

  • Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice. Always. If sorrowful, keep rejoicing. (Philippians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:10)

  • Give thanks in all circumstances. All. All. All. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

So much for any pretensions to great holiness! I’m undone.

But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded. I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer (“Put to death what is earthly in you” Colossians 3:5. “Put to death the deeds of the body” Romans 3:18.)

In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). Peace rises. Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.

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Roll Your Burden

(by Nicole Whitacre)

For over ten years I’ve had this verse and comments by Charles Spurgeon on a scrap of paper taped to my computer monitor at work or pinned to my bulletin board at home. If your soul is burdened today (especially you battle-weary moms) I pray these words encourage you to rest in God.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6

“Commit your way” literally means to “roll your burden” and so Mr. Spurgeon urges us to:

"Roll the whole burden of life upon the Lord. Leave with Jehovah not thy present fretfulness merely, but all thy cares; in fact, submit the whole tenor of thy way to him. Cast away anxiety, resign thy will, submit thy judgment, leave all with the God of all....The ploughman sows and harrows, and then leaves the harvest to God. What can he do else? He cannot cover the heavens with clouds, or command the rain, or bring forth the sun or create the dew. He does well to leave the whole matter with God; and so to all of us it is truest wisdom, having obediently trusted in God, to leave results in his hands and expect a blessed issue."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marriage Book Giveaway Reminder

Marriage Book Giveaway from Desiring God Ministries

November 14, 2008
By: Abraham Piper Category: DG Resources

Remember to subscribe to the DG blog by email or RSS before Monday if you want a chance to win This Momentary Marriage.

Whether you subscribed a second ago or have been reading for a long time, just let us know you're a subscriber by responding to this post, and you'll be entered into the drawing.

We originally said we'd give away 100 of these books, but let's make it 125, so everyone's chances are a little better.

Thanks for reading!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Listen to the Story of Jesus and See the Glory of God

(by John Piper)

Jesus is concerned to give assurance to those of us who would read the Gospel of John in the 21st century.

For example, he prays for us in John 17:20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” In other words, Jesus foresaw that after his departure everyone who would become a Christian would do so not by seeing his physical body but through “the word” of the eyewitnesses. This is possible because an eyewitness like John wrote the Gospel of John.

Another example is the way Jesus responded to Thomas who needed to see Jesus’ wounds in order to believe he was really raised from the dead. Jesus had us in mind when he said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The point of these two examples of Jesus’ concern for us is not that we don’t see anything. The point is that though we can’t see his physical person, the kind of seeing needed to believe is still possible. It happens through the words of the eyewitnesses.

Jesus’ point is that those who have not seen him physically are not at a disadvantage in seeing him the way we need to see him in order to believe in him and have eternal life. Many saw Jesus physically and did not believe. Some saw the amazing miracles and wanted to kill him because of them (John 11:47-48). They did not see the glory of God. They only saw a threat to their power and their way of life.

Even the disciples were slow to see with the eyes of the heart what they were seeing with the eyes of the head. For example, Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The divine glory of Jesus broke in on the disciples in different ways and at different times.

So it is with us who see Jesus now. Though we do not see him physically, nevertheless we see him through the witness that John bore to Jesus. The Gospel of John (and the other Gospels) are portraits where we look and see Jesus. So we can have the same mixed reaction that the people did in Jesus’ day. Of some it was said, “seeing they do not see” (Matthew 13:13). So some of us see the portrait of Jesus in the gospel and do not see the compelling, divine glory of the Son of God full of grace and truth. Others do.

The Apostle Paul knew that he was sent to open the eyes of people who could not see Jesus physically, but who could see him spiritually and be saved. Jesus said to him, “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:17-18).

Paul knew that Satan was blinding the eyes of unbelievers to keep them from seeing divine glory in the portrait of Jesus. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

How do we see Jesus as compellingly, self-authenticatingly, beautifully, divinely glorious and true? We read or hear the story of his incarnation and life and death and resurrection and what it means. In that hearing, we watch him speak and act. We consider the purpose and plan of God in this story.

As we listen and watch, the mighty grace of God opens the eyes of our heart. That is what the connection between John 1:14 and 1:16 says: “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . [For] from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace opened our eyes to see.

Another way to say it is that we see and know the truth and glory of Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit. “By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24). “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). In other words, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see that this person we are hearing and watching in the story of the gospel is “from God.”

When this happens we say, “Jesus [that is, the incarnate one that we are seeing in the gospel story] is Lord!” And then Paul adds, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). This means that our seeing that Jesus is Lord is the work of the Holy Spirit, and our seeing it is the witness of the Spirit in our lives.

I am praying that God would move among us in power during our sojourn in the Gospel of John. O that he might open our eyes more and more to the fullness of his glory. May the Lord remove all blindness. May the Lord grant that we would see him and be changed into his image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Some Pictures of God's Spectacular Creation

These pictures of God's beautiful creations were just emailed to me. They show Northern Lights and the last picture is a circumhorizon arc. Presently these pictures have been circulating on the internet since 2006.

This is a circumhorizon arc (circumhorizontal arc or fire rainbow). You can find out more information about the circumhorizon arc at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Biblical "Contradictions" and Our Big God

(by Dan Philips)

In 2 Timothy 4:16a , Paul writes, "At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me."

In 2 Timothy 4:17a, Paul writes, But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it."

That is a contradiction in the Bible.

It's absolutely straightforward. Each verse makes an assertion, and those assertions (isolated from one another) clash. Verse 16 says that nobody stood with Paul; verse 17 says that the Lord stood with Paul. Which is it? Did nobody stand with Paul? Or did the Lord stand with Paul? If the Lord stood with Paul, how can you say that nobody stood with Paul? It's a contradiction.

ZED: Buford?
BUFORD: Yeah, Zed?
ZED: Did we just see that feller lose his mind, right out there on the Internets?
BUFORD: Shh! It's that Calvi-whatcha feller. He's a-goin' somewheres with this!

Now, if I went on and on like this, you all would think — I hope you all would think — that I was what we in IT call a 1D-10T.

You'd say, "Great googly moogly, man! Get a grip! When Paul was writing verse 16, you can't credit him with knowing where he'd be heading in verse 17, in the very next words? You can't credit him with categorically stating that nobody stood with him, knowing as he wrote it that he was about to make that one exception, that the Lord stood with him? And you don't think Paul credited his readers with being able to pay attention long enough to see the one thought developed by the very next statement?"

You'd be right. (Besides, though the ESV doesn't reflect it, Paul used two different verbs in Greek.) That answer would be sufficient and conclusive. Of course we'd read Paul (or any decent writer) with that kind of respect.So here's my point: what we can credit of Paul on a small scale, we should credit of God on a large scale.

BUFORD: See? Toldja.
ZED: Shh! I still say he's fixin' t'crack, like an ice pond in th' spring.

Riddle me this: How smart is God? How big, if I may anthropomorphize thus, is His brain? How many thoughts can God hold at one time? How large is God's "big picture"?

I love the way the psalmist puts it in Psalm 147:5 — "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure." The phrase "beyond measure" translates Hebrew words that more literally mean, "there is no numbering," meaning "beyond count." It calls us to envision God's understanding as if it could be counted in bits of information or insight. But the psalmist says, "Don't even try. You could never count up everything God knows!" In His mind, at one time, in one simple, instantaneous glance, God knows all. Actual or potential, all things are instantly and exhaustively present to the mind of God.

Berkhof says it with characteristic economy of words: “The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection of God whereby He…knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act” (Systematic Theology [Eerdmans: 1941], 66; emphases original).

This is why God's foreknowledge is absolute, why He can declare the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). To this infinite-personal God, it is all one. To see the beginning of a thing is to see both its end, and everything involved in between those two points.

What does that have to do with "contradictions" in the Bible?

Remember my opening example. We credited Paul — finite mortal that he was — with knowing in verse A what he would say, seconds later, in verse B. Thus the "contradiction" between A and B is at most only formal, not real.

Now lift your eyes, and couple the doctrine of God's omniscience with the Biblical truth of plenary, verbal inspiration. What do you get? What does it mean?

It means that, when God inspired Moses to begin Scripture with the preposition be ("in"), He already knew that He would move John to close it with the adjective πάντων (pantōn, "all"). It means that, when He moved any given writer to choose any given word, He already knew all the other words that He would move every other writer to choose.

So while we can't credit the human authors with that kind of knowledge, we can credit God with that kind of knowledge. And while we mustn't interpret the writers as moved to say something that meant the opposite of what they were meaning to say as led by God, we must interpret what they wrote in light of everything else that God moved all the other writers to write.

So the meaning of all Scripture must be gleaned in conversation, if you will — with all Scripture.

Jerry Bridges: The Beatitudes: Humility in Action

Four sermons by Jerry Bridges on the Beatitudes:

Humbled over Our Sin (42:37 minutes)
Meek and Merciful (46:54 minutes)
Hungering for Righteousness and Purity (37:51 minutes)
Peacemakers and Persecuted (31:54 minutes)

HT: James Grant
posted by JT at Thursday, November 13, 2008 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Shortest Way to Peace

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

While spending time with friends this past weekend, one of them read this little excerpt from Charles Bridges book, The Christian Ministry (p. 178):
"It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit."

I've read these words before; however, given my tendency to be anxious over my mistakes or "look too eagerly for present fruit" (particularly as a mom), it soundly encouraged and challenged my soul to hear them again. In fact, we may have even used this quote in a past post, but I thought maybe one or two of you might also be so inclined to this oppressive anxiety Mr. Bridges speaks of (especially if you are a mom!) that you too might find it helpful to read again.

Remember that the shortest path to peace is to cast yourself upon God.

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3

Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on November 11, 2008 at 03:06 PM


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