Monday, January 31, 2011

Christin’s Quote Book



  • A book is a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out. Georg Lichtenburg
  • Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them. – Ann Landers
  • A book is a success when people who haven't read it pretend they have. – Los Angeles Times
  • It's easier to understand a nation by listening to its music than by learning its language. – Unknown
  • We probably wouldn't worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do. – Olin Miller

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Security in Numbers


In the Bible we find a kind of continuum that degenerates from ignorance to foolishness to wickedness and finally to evil. There are men and women in this world that can legitimately be described by these various terms. One of the key things a godly church community and family provide is doctrine and instruction in the truth (overcoming ignorance), reproof and correction (overcoming foolishness), and a discipline that "removes the wicked man from among yourselves." (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 5:13). We need community for these things and also for authority, accountability, example and inspiration. "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Pr. 27:17).

When a person isolates themselves from these redemptive communities (or when they live in one that is dysfunctional), then that person is left with only themselves at the center of the universe trying to make all the callsthey can't do ityet they must. Enormous insecurity moves in and soon they can't bear the weight. Turning inward, the world becomes very dark and threatening place. Anyone and everyone must be despised because they all threaten their fragile system. Retreat is the last refuge, but it's also the last place they need to be.

Redemption is not simply a private matter. We are His people, not just His person. The prodigal must first come home.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Constantly Confronting

The Bible is constantly confronting us with ideas and notions that run contrary to our own. This is why the Bible warns about those who would seek teachers and preachers who would only tell them what they wanted to hear. The Word of God not only seems odd to us (at times), but it certainly stands in stark contrast to a culture that has diminished or forgotten God Himself. As we have frequently imbibed in the spirit of the age, the Word of God comes to us shining its light and exposing our circumstances. We’re often tempted to run for cover and dismiss God’s claims as intrusive. Blaise Pascal observed that, “People almost always arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” God, however, doesn’t appear to be as concerned over our comfort as He is our holiness. In the end, if we’re holy, we’ll know true comfort. Not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds is what it’s all about. “Behold, all things have become new.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

No Amiable Indifference


In our "politically correct" culture it's essential that no one is ever offended by anything you say. A person can live like the devil and flaunt their liberated lifestyle but woe to the one who is so rude as to point out that such living and flaunting might be sinful. Your duty is to make people feel good about whatever they determine is good. Leave them alone and they'll leave you alone. Every man must be able to do what is right in his own eyes.

Of course this is completely contrary to what Christ did. He loved and, therefore, He told the truth. The truth is often offensive; it's not always nice. Nevertheless, it's the backdrop for the Gospelthe good newsman is a mess and in Christ there is hope. The age of toleration cannot tolerate such a message. Dorothy Sayers said it well:

"I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. Seeing that Christ went about the world giving the most violent offense to all kinds of people it would seem absurd to expect that the doctrine of His Person can be so presented as to offend nobody. We cannot blink the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference; and He said in so many words that what He brought with Him was fire and sword. That being so, nobody need be too much surprised or disconcerted at finding that a determined preaching of Christian dogma may sometimes result in a few angry letters of protest or a difference of opinion on the parish council."
[Creed or Chaos, pp.41-42]


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Idolatry and Basketball


Once, when a friend of mine used the word "idolatry," a high school coach complained that he was always using "big words." My friend replied, "It's not as big as the word "basketball." Perspective is everything.

Like many things in life, sports can be good. It provides exercise, fellowship, entertainment, and more. But, like many things, it can also turn into something that is harmful. We have been warned that it's possible to gain the world while losing our soul. So, while sports are not unique in this regard, they do provide an example of how good things can become bad things when they're not kept in their proper perspective. Anything can become an idol, and idols usually emerge gradually to occupy a greater and greater priority in our lives. Tickets to the big game on Sunday are very tempting.



Christians have long ago given up being concerned about all this. The movie Chariots of Fire portrayed what used to be a genuine struggle for many Christians: whether to participate in a sporting event on Sunday, the common day of rest and worship for Christians. Today the movie seems quaint, and the first reaction of Christian and non-Christian alike to Eric Liddell's dilemma is, "Lighten up, Eric. Just go to the early service!" These days many Christian athletes play only on Sundays, and are watched by millions of other Christians who rush home from church (or even skip church if necessary) to watch them play. [Mark Galli, "The Prodigal Sports Fan: There is Hope for the Idolater," Christianity Today, April 1, 2005.]

I know, it's not polite to raise such questions, but polity aside; it does seem to be a question that Jesus might ask. The question is not really one about what we enjoy. While worship does bring its own kind of joy, it's not the same kind of joy that sports or other kinds of activities bring. The question is more about our priorities and our duty. Every decision sends a message about what is most important; we're always teaching our children something.

The sports god is an enticing deity: he offers splendid moments of transcendence while never demanding that we take up our cross, forgive our enemies, or serve the poor. No wonder that we sometimes spend too much time with this benign god.
   But if we've met the true God, we'll eventually be disappointed by this idol. In the end, a god who makes no demands is a god who doesn't love. He only wants to use us, not mature us into the image of Christ. So, we prodigal sports fans will find ourselves returning to the Father time and again, seeking forgiveness for falling for the promise of transcendence without holiness. [Mark Galli, "The Thirst of the 24/7 Fan: Understanding the Idolatry in Sports," Christianity Today, April 1, 2005.]


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Self-Government


Parents, it's your duty to train your children to love God and to keep His commandments. You do this first by loving God and keeping His commandments yourself (Deut. 6:4-9). The goal is self-government under God. When your children (especially your teenagers), will not govern themselves under God, then you must govern them. You govern them by example and with your words. You also govern them with correction, direction, and discipline. You are the boss. God put you in charge. You do have the authority and He expects you to use it with wisdom. You train them to make wise decisions and you enforce that wisdom. You decide who their friends will be, what they will watch and read, where they will go to school, how to act and talk, how long to play, when to be home, what to wear, how to spend their money (including tithing), what they will participate in, how and when chores are to be done, and anything else that affects how they live before God and man. It's hard work, but it's your job. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Pr. 22:6).


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Democracy


As we were raising our children we practiced democracy as the form of government in our house. I was very concerned to have the wise input of my amazing wife and as the children came along we both wanted to have them contribute to the process as well. Everyone has needs and wants and a good family takes all those into consideration as decisions are made and resources are allocated. It was common for us to vote on family matters. Each of the three children had one vote each. My wife (did I mention that she is amazing), had four votes and I cast my eight votes. The system worked very well and we were all able to fulfill our obligations in our respective God-given roles.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Christin’s Quote Book



  • One boy will be better suited for the study of history, another for poetry, another for law, while some perhaps had better be packed off to the country. – Quintillian
  • If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research. – Wilson Mizner
  • Language most shows the man; speak that I may see thee. – Ben Jonson
  • I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down. – Robert Frost
  • Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech. – Martin Tupper

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bound to the Community


We have so individualized the gospel, and made it simply a "private matter," that we have lost sight of the fact that it was the Church that was purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), and as we are members of His Church we are also partakers of the benefits of His sacrifice. Martin Luther understood that the Christian is inextricably bound to the community of faith and that it is God's work in and for us in the context of the Church that provides the basis for his formula: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." Both parts of this formula are essential. Luther stressed the uniqueness and necessity of the Church, describing it as "[that] special community in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian by the Word of God."

Here are a few other quotes from Luther on the centrality and necessity of the Church:

"You do not seek Him, He seeks you; you do not find Him, He finds you; for the preachers come from Him, not from you….your faith comes from Him, not from you, everything that faith works in you comes from Him, not from you…where He does not come, you remain outside."

"Therefore, he who would find Christ must first of all find the Church. How would one know where Christ and His faith were, if one did not know where His believers are? And he who would know something of Christ, must not trust himself, or build [his] own bridges into heaven through his own reason; but [he must] go to the church, visit and ask of the same…for outside the Christian Church is not truth, no Christ, no salvation."

"What does it matter to me and the chaplains if you don't want to listen and receive the sacraments? You have four doors herego on out! But he who is above says: If you want to be a Christian, if you want to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, then come here! There stands your God; he offers you his body and blood…if you want to despise God and neglect the forgiveness of sins, then stay away."


Saturday, January 22, 2011

God is no Buttercup


This is a memorable quote from Otto Scott" "God is no buttercup." Another way to make this point is to recognize that the Bible is not a collection of "precious moments." God's Word speaks to the real world and it makes no apology for doing so. It is filled with stories about a fallen world and its redemption. There are no subjects that are off limits. Some people are embarrassed over certain things in the Bible, but God is not embarrassed. He covers the range of human sin and redemption. He free speaks of life and death, sex and violence, treachery and warfare, and He does so in graphic terms (e.g. Ezek. 23:17-21; Mal. 2:3). He is not being gratuitous, and neither should we be.

The church should speak more, not less about these "forbidden" subjects. The silence of the church has given us the culture that is around us. If we don't set forth what God says about these things, both in their sinfulness and in their righteousness, then the world will speak to them for us. They will define justice and sexuality and marriage and every other issue. For example, God created sex and called it good. But He called it good in a certain context (Heb. 13:4). He also says that we are to delight in His gift and to not abuse it. Consider this instruction of a father to his son regarding sexuality:

15    Drink water from your own cistern,
    And running water from your own well.
16    Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
    Streams of water in the streets?
17    Let them be only your own,
    And not for strangers with you.
18    Let your fountain be blessed,
    And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
19    As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
    Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
    And always be enraptured with her love.
20    For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
    And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
21    For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
    And He ponders all his paths.
22    His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
    And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
23    He shall die for lack of instruction,
    And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Is this a message young (an old) people need to hear? Would our culture be better off if these instructions were followed? Would marriages be happier? We must preach the whole counsel of God.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Two New Books You Might Like

(If you received this in your email, you might have to click HERE to see the images and the details)

Why Isn’t a Pretty Girl Like You Married?
And Other Useful Comments

Nancy Wilson

Order HERE

Single women can sometimes be magnets for awkward questions... especially within the church community. With an emphasis on strong marriages and biblical childrearing, unmarried women in the church can begin to think that they are somehow on the sidelines. But this is not the case.

In this helpful volume, Nancy Wilson provides straightforward counsel and encouragement for those struggling with "the wait." She addresses practical concerns like building a career but focuses more specifically on important relational issues such as interacting with competitive women, respecting your parents even after you've left their home, establishing standards for male friends, and keeping the right outlook on your life.

Whether a woman is called to singleness for a short time or for her whole life, she is called to be fruitful in God's kingdom.




Loving the Little Years
Motherhood in the Trenches

Rachel Jankovic

Order HERE

I know this is a hard job, because I am right here in the middle it. I know you need encouragement because I do too. This is not a tender reminiscence. At the time of writing this, I have three children in diapers, and I can recognize the sound of hundreds of toothpicks being dumped out in the hall. Excuse me for a moment, won't you...



Loving the Little Years is a delightful book. That may seem a strange comment on a book that deals with life with such candor. It’s all here: the fights in the back of the car, the dirty diapers, sinks full of dishes, runny noses, exhaustion—all the stuff of having five young children. It is a fresh and honest book, because it faces the problem of sin (both in kids and in parents). It is filled with profound insights into living wisely as a Christian parent. It has all the things I look for in a parenting book—the focus is nurture, not just control; the motivation and empowerment is grace and not efforts. This book will help any mom (or dad for that matter) with loving the little years.”
Tedd Tripp, pastor and author of Shepherding a Child's Heart

“Mothers of little people have one of the most challenging and important jobs on earth. But it is a humble job. Rachel Jankovic is a woman who lives out her story with humility, grace, and a houseful of humor. And with five exuberant children, ages five and under, you can be sure she knows what she is talking about.”
Nancy Wilson, author of Praise Her in the Gates

“Insightful, encouraging, honest and practical and a great deal of fun to read. Rachel is a blessing to her husband and her little ones. Now she is also a blessing to me and mine. May this book bless you and yours as well.”
R. C. Sproul Jr.,  teaching fellow of Ligonier Ministries



Holier than God


The Bible is a book that has been neglected and abused, twisted and reshaped. Unfortunately, these things are not only done by the enemies of the Bible but also by its professed friends. God's Word often calls us to take particular ethical positions but it just as often established a range of liberty which grants freedom of movement. For example, the Scriptures do require modesty but does not provide a specific dress code. Godly judgment requires wisdom and grace. There are always those who are more than willing to establish the "modesty police," and to provide us with the rules that God forgot to give us. If God drew the line HERE, then these well-meaning friends are happy to draw the line ten feet further back just so we are sure we never get too close to God's line. The Pharisees were notorious for these kinds of extra-biblical rules and the temptation for us to be holier that God continues in the church today.

I have heard people say they would rather "err on the right rather than the left." But to err at all is contrary to what God requires. Falling in the ditch on the right is just as disastrous as falling in the ditch on the left. Our job is to not fall in the ditch at all. The Bible says, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut. 4:2). And again, "Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess" (Deut. 5:23-33).


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finishing the Race


I've made a lot of messes in my life. I have made foolish decisions, stupid remarks, and demonstrated rude behavior. I've been inconsiderate of others, selfish, and hateful. I've lied, stolen, gossiped, and envied. I've been arrogant, unteachable and cruel. These things litter the trail of my life. I'm ashamed of all these things. I wish that I could return and clean them all up. I wish that I could ask forgiveness from all the people who have been hurt by these things, and while in some cases I have been able to do so, there are many others whom I have hurt that I'm not aware of or have forgotten. I'm confident that their memory of me is not a good one and that their negative opinions of me are well deserved. Given the quantity of the mess I might be tempted to despair. But then there's this:

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21

The grace of God has come behind me and, in an enormous show of mercy, He has forgiven all my messes. More than that, He began a good work in me that He has promised to complete (Phil. 1:6). I became His workmanship in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). Now, in Christ, I have the genuine hope of finishing better than I started. I still make messes, but thanks to the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification, I am making some progress. My mind is being transformed (Rom. 12:2), and I am being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Given my history, it is indeed a tribute to His amazing grace that I have reason to hope that I will one day be able to say with the Apostle Paul:

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. ―2 Timothy 4:7-8

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Judge Not


Perhaps the best known and most often quoted verse in the Bible is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that you be not judged." As is often the case, this verse is frequently ripped from its context and used as a stick with which to beat others. Ironically, it becomes a means by which others are judged unjustly. It is impossible not to make judgments about people and circumstances. The whole point of Jesus' instruction is not that we should not judge, but rather that we must use a right standard when we do so. Here is the passage in context:

"Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." Matthew 7:1-6

God's Word is the only just standard by which we must all judge and be judged. If God says that something is sin, then it actually is sin and we too are (in agreement with Him) to judge it to be sin. It's sin if we do it, and it's sin if someone else does it. For example, Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." If we are fornicators or adulterers, God will judge us, and if others are fornicators or adulterers, God will judge them. If we agree with God standard of judgment, we will make the same assessment of ourselves and of others. What we are not free to do is to make up our own standard of judgment or to have a double standard, one for other and a different one for ourselves. Hypocrisy in judgment is the misapplication of the standard of judgment. Jesus specifically call on us to make a judgment about others when He tells us to "not give what is holy to the dogs; not cast our pearls before swine."

No sinner wants to be judged. People in sin always want others to approve of their sinit helps them feel good about themselvesit's salve to their consciences. Nevertheless, it is a deadly salve that only covers a more serious malady. The good news (the Gospel) is only good news for real sinners who turn from real sins. God's righteous standard tells us the truth about ourselves and this truth also points us to the remedy. Jesus came to save sinners from their sins. This not only means that their past sins are forgiven in Him, but also that these same sinners turn from their sins and adopt the righteous standards of judgment that God has.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." ―1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

East vs. West – Childrearing


A friend sent me an essay from the Wall Street Journal titled: "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." The essay had some excellent points and also revealed several serious deficits in the Chinese model of childrearing. In the name of love harshness can be justified when, in fact, this approach is more likely motivated by parental pride. On the other hand, the current pop Western approach excuses children for their laziness and lack of discipline, while shifting the blame to others. At all cost, the child's "self-esteem" must not be bruised. A Christian and biblical approach would humbly insist on discipline; demanding much in the context of grace. Children do need to be pushed to excel; they can do far more than they think they can. It's difficult to learn math (or any other subject that is worth learning) without some tears. "Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:15).

Below are some quotes from the essay which are excerpted from the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, to be published this week by the Penguin Press.

"What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more."

"…I've noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently."

"…as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't."

"Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child's grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher's credentials."


Monday, January 17, 2011

Christin’s Quote Book



  • Children are living messages we send into a time we will never see. – Neil Postman
  • One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bonafide stupidity, there ain't nothing like teamwork. – Mark Twain
  • That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent. – Aldous Huxley
  • We frequently forgive those who bore us, but cannot forgive those whom we bore. – Francios, duc de la Rochefoucald
  • A father is a banker provided by nature. – Unknown

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Boy Jack




"Have you news of my boy Jack? Not this tide."
— Rudyard Kipling, My Boy Jack


My wife and I enjoyed the presentation of Masterpiece Theater's, My Boy Jack.

It was well done. In 1914 England, patriotism is high in the early days of WWI, and writer Rudyard Kipling is one of its most eloquent and passionate voices. John "Jack," Kipling's only son, is underage, hopelessly myopic, and eager to join the war effort. Kipling's outspoken American wife Carrie remains more sanguine on the course of the war, and the fate of her family. My Boy Jack, based on a true story, tells of a nation at war, and offers an intimate portrait of one family's complex and divided experience in it.


After watching this it reminded me of one of Kipling's poems to which I was first introduced many years ago by Ben House.

IF
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dreamand not make dreams your master,
If you can think
and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings
nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And
which is moreyou'll be a Man, my son!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Thoughts We Think


"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Phil 4:8).


Why is there such a variety and discrepancy in the moral quality of men? A man who starts and ends with his own thoughts is adrift; especially a sinful man whose thinking has been twisted and bent. Very early in the history of fallen man we read: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). Thought always carries with it a moral element. There are good and bad thoughts; righteous or evil; pure or corrupt. And so, man needs a moral anchor for his thinking; he needs some way to chart a reliable path that leads to a lofty destination. He needs a mental North Star.


Garbage-In-Garbage-Out

It matters what we eat intellectually. There's an abundance of junk and toxic mental food that is multiplied and magnified by the current smorgasbord of the so-called "information age." "Alternative realities" are created in the mind and many of those alternatives are ugly and destructive. Ideas have consequencesevery single one of them. Just as engineers employ their ideas into building projects, all people construct their lives with their thoughts which lead to their decisions and actions. Many of those construction projects turn out to be engineering disasters. As their lives and families collapse they often wonder, "what went wrong." It started way back there in the early days of the project where it never occurred to them that they were building on a fault line.

God declares:

7    Let the wicked forsake his way,
    And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    Let him return to the Lord,
    And He will have mercy on him;
    And to our God,
    For He will abundantly pardon.
8    "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
9    "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways,
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God's thoughts are the only true thoughts and thus our thoughts must conform to His. He is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). "Man lives not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). The Scriptures make it clear that the things we meditate on (i.e., think about), have a powerful impact on what we do and how we live. Our thoughts matter. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Josh. 1:8).

The unbeliever "became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21-22). The new man in Christ, however, has a new foundation for his thinking. He is no longer "conformed to this world," but "transformed by the renewing of his mind" (Rom. 12:2). "But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:20-24). We are to "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (Col. 10:5).


What are you reading? What are you watching? What are you listening to? What are you thinking?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Innocence or Ignorance?


"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16).

Many have interpreted these words of Jesus to mean that if we can keep ourselves or our children from knowing about certain things, especially things that could lead to sin, then we can preserve innocence. However, ignorance and innocence are not the same thing. In fact, wisdom is what Jesus calls for, which is the opposite of ignorance. Wisdom involves "knowing," and it involves holding that knowledge in it proper perspective. It is essential for us to know about all kinds of things, even sinful things, if we are to bring the Word of God to bear upon these subjects in our own lives and in the lives of our children.

There is not subject that is off limits as far as the Bible is concerned. Cornelius Van Til noted that, "The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication." How we speak of a subject is what's important. We must reflect God's thoughts on the matter. Theology is simply the study of what God thinks on any given subject. There are some things in the Bible that might make us blush, but blushing is probably a good thing; at least God must have thought so. 

The goal of the Christian life is maturity which means that we must embrace all of life, know all that we can know, and hold that knowledge in righteousness. Then, and only then, will we be "thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim.3:17).


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some Favorites from Shel Silverstein


WAVY HAIR

I thought that I had wavy hair

Until I shaved.

Instead, I find that I have straight hair

And a very wavy head.



THE LOSER

Mama said I'd lose my head If it wasn't fastened on.

Today I guess it wasn't

'Cause while playing with my cousin

It fell off and rolled away

And now it's gone.



And I can't look for it

'Cause my eyes are in it,

And I can't call to it

'Cause my mouth is on it

(Couldn't hear me anyway

'Cause my ears are on it),

Can't even think about it

'Cause my brain is in it.

So I guess I'll sit down

On this rock

And rest for just a minute....



ME-STEW

I have nothing to put in my stew, you see,

Not a bone or a bean or a black-eyed pea,

So I'll just climb in the pot to see

If I can make a stew out of me.

I'll put in some pepper and salt and I'll sit

In the bubbling water—I won't scream a bit.

I'll sing while I simmer, I'll smile while I'm stewing,

I'll taste myself often to see how I'm doing.

I'll stir me around with this big wooden spoon

And serve myself up at a quarter to noon.

So bring out your stew bowls,

You gobblers and snackers.

Farewell—and I hope you enjoy me with crackers!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What a Man


"…He was born contrary to the laws of nature, lived in poverty, was reared in obscurity, and only once crossed the boundary of the land in which He was born—and that in His childhood. He had no wealth or influence and bad neither training nor education in the world's schools. His relatives were inconspicuous and uninfluencial. In infancy He startled a king. In boyhood He puzzled the learned doctors. In manhood He ruled the course of nature. He walked upon the billows and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services. He never wrote a book and yet all the libraries of the world could not hold the books about Him. He never wrote a song, yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all songwriters together. He never founded a college, yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has. He never practiced medicine and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors have healed broken bodies. This Jesus Christ is the star of astronomy, the rock of geology, the lion and the lamb of zoology, the harmonizer of all discords, and the healer of all diseases. Throughout history great men have come and gone, yet He lives on. Herod could not kill Him. Satan could not seduce Him. Death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him."

John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, pp. 9-10


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jack and the Beanstalk


"In the end the Word preached, which they came ultimately to hate, broke them; and knowing it was breaking them, they demanded it be changed and turned into a soothing syrup to heal them. It could not be, of course, for even the gentlest word rent them, and when the fantastic beanstalk of unwitting presumption was felled to the ground by the axe-blows of the Word of God, down came the poor Jacks with it; I was blamed for doing irreparable harm to delicate and sensitive personalities."

William Still, The Work of the Pastor


Monday, January 10, 2011

Christin’s Quote Book




  • The woman who thinks she is intelligent demands equal rights with men. A woman who is intelligent does not. – Sidonii Gabrielle Colette
  • No mind is thoroughly well organized that is deficient in a sense of humor. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • I'm not young enough to know everything. – Oscar Wilde
  • Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. – Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi
  • Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Out of Order


Having the sun appear after the light would have been very significant to pagan world views which tended to worship the sun as the source of all life. God seems to be making it pointedly clear that the sun is secondary to himself as the source of everything. He doesn't "need" the sun in order to create life, in contrast to old-earth beliefs.

In fact, early church writers used the literal fourth day creation of the sun as a polemic against paganism. For example, in the second century, Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, wrote in an apologetic work to the learned pagan magistrate Autolycus:

On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it. 

In the 4th century, Basil the Great commented on the same passage:

Heaven and earth were the first; after them was created light; the day had been distinguished from the night, then had appeared the firmament and the dry element. The water had been gathered into the reservoir assigned to it, the earth displayed its productions, it had caused many kinds of herbs to germinate and it was adorned with all kinds of plants. However, the sun and the moon did not yet exist, in order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth. That is why there was a fourth day, and then God said: "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven."\

Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Worse Than Children


Thankfully, this is not true of many mature and godly young men and women, but it's too often true and has been so through the ages. From Thomas Manton's excellent letter of introduction/dedicatory to the Westminster Confession of Faith: [HT. Pastor Niell]


"But now they come to us with aged self-conceitedness, being past children, and yet worse than children still; having the ignorance of children, but being overgrown the teachableness of children; and think themselves wise, yea, wise enough to quarrel with the wisest of their teachers, because they have lived long enough to have been wise, and the evidence of their knowledge is their aged ignorance; and they are readier to flee in our faces for Church privileges, than to learn of us, and obey our instructions, till they are prepared for them, that they may do them good; like snappish curs, that will snap us by the fingers for their meat, and snatch it out of our hands; and not like children, that stay till we give it them."

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Yellow Brick Beltway


By David Schoenbrod, a professor at New York Law School and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. [From the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 27, 1998.]

The release this month of "The Wizard of Oz" in a digitally juiced-up film format should prompt more people to read the even more wonderful book. Their reading pleasure will be enhanced by understanding that L. Frank Baum wrote the book as parable whose point is more poignant-today than when it was published in 1900that the wizards of Washington are a bunch of charlatans running a scam on the little people of America.

Baum drew the book's symbolism from William Jennings Bryan's campaign for the national government to back its paper money with silver as well as gold. Bryan's opponent in the 1896 and 1900 presidential elections was William McKinley, who supported the gold standard. Bryan argued that the gold standard depressed the economy, thereby crucifying America on a "cross of gold." The hard times are represented by the bleakness of the Kansas in which Dorothy finds herself at the beginning of the book.

Dorothy represents everywoman, and the cyclone that carries her to the land of Oz is a silverite victory at the polls, according to the historian Richard Jensen. The land gets its name from the silverites wanting 16 ounces (oz.) of silver to be the monetary equivalent of one ounce of gold. Her own house lands on the wicked Witch of the East (the Eastern bankers), killing the witch and freeing the Munchkins (ordinary people) from bondage. The good Witch of the North (the Northern electorate) tells Dorothy that the Wizard of Oz may be able to help her get home. To reach him, she must travel the yellow brick road (gold ingots), which may be done only with silver slippers (the movie changed them to ruby for better contrast). She meets Bryan's supporters along the waythe Scarecrow (the farmer who thinks he has no brains) and the Tin Woodsman (the industrial laborer who thinks he has no compassion)and Bryan himself represented as a Cowardly Lion.

This ragtag electoral coalition gets to national capital, the Emerald City, whose greenish hue is an optical illusion, just as the greenback dollar is illusory money. The wizard proves to be a complete charlatan. As he confesses to himself, "How can I help being a humbug when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can't be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodsman happy, because they imagined I could do anything." He blames his actions on the polls, but at least he is honest with himself. To get Dorothy back to Kansas, he suggests a hot air balloon, but his hot air carries him away, leaving Dorothy behind.

The book is in the end about political and human truths of far broader import than the elections of 1896 and 1900, both of which McKinley won. The Scarecrow learns that he always had brains, the Woodsman that he always had a heart, the Lion that he always had courage. Dorothy too learns that with her silver shoes she always had the means to return home. The message is that ordinary people can take care of themselves if they realize their full potential, work together and do not put themselves into the thrall of self-professed experts wielding the powers of government.

This populist message was uncongenial to E.Y. (Yip) Harburg, the socialist and New Dealer who had the most to do with scripting the movie. The movie makes the wizard a force for good. Although he is a fast talker and overpromiser, he is not a complete humbug, because he instills Dorothy, her companions and his own people with the confidence needed to succeed. He gives them, however indirectly, what the New Deal promised to the American peoplebrains, heart and courage. The wizard's farewell address was readily identifiable to the movie audiences of 1939 as in the style of Franklin Roosevelt.

This subtle respinning of the story turns its meaning on its head. In the book, Dorothy seeks the security of home in the national capital, but finds there nothing but trickery and discovers in the process that she and her fellow citizens already have what it takes to live the good life. In the movie, Dorothy and the rest of humanity find that they need charismatic and expert leaders. They are bound to keep electing wizards.

The book's perspective is needed today more than ever. Our modern wizards are far more sophisticated than the original at deceiving the people. The original wizard simply stayed in his palace, required the wearing of tinted glasses and promised only what might happen anyway. Our modern wizards of both parties have tricks to avoid responsibility that Baum could not have dreamed of. They use unfunded mandates and unfunded entitlements to give to Peter without appearing to take from Paul. For the same reason, they delegate to agencies and the courts the power to regulate and to tax. Their secret is the same as the original wizard'sthey have nothing to give us that we do not already have in ourselves. Yes, we do need some government, but, no, we don't need the aggrandizement of government that comes from all the tricks.

Which reminds me, Dorothy, stay away from the White House.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Epicenter of Contentment


"Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God's disposal in every condition." ―Jeremiah Burroughs

None of us would be content while being physically tortured, but under the normal range of circumstances in life, we're not only called to be content; we're also called to learn contentment. The Apostle Paul writes: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13). In other words, the epicenter of contentment is inside, not outside of me. It's true that sometimes we're genuinely happier when our outward circumstances improve. No doubt, Paul preferred being filled over being hungry. Nevertheless, discontent people often think that their contentment lies strictly outside of themselves. "If only they had a better job, wife, husband, church, car, house, etc., then I would be content." So, when such discontent people change jobs or spouses or churches, they often find that their discontentment goes with them. It's much easier to blame the circumstances than to take responsibility for our own attitudes. The root cause of discontentment is a lack of thankfulness. The discontent have an eye for what is missing rather than for what is present. Any fly can find a sore; it's their nature.

It's interesting that the Apostle, just prior to his writing about having learned contentment in all circumstances, wrote these words: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). The discontent are often anxious, but the remedy is prayer with thanksgiving. Praying people trust God. Thankful people are content. The result is peace, whether we understand the circumstances or not.


JANUARY 6 - The Epiphany of Our Lord



MATTHEW 2:11-12
And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.


DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT
Have you ever received a gift at Christmas that you didn’t understand, or that didn’t mean very much to you at the time? Maybe you received a Bible before you knew how to read, or a watch that belonged to your grandfather before you knew how to tell time.

Matthew tells us that the wise men gave “gifts” to Jesus when he was very young. But if we think of their gifts as Christmas, birthday, or “just because” gifts, they seem kind of strange. Gold was very costly and valuable, and so were the spices of frankincense and myrrh. But they wouldn’t have meant much as gifts to a little dark-eyed, pudgy-faced, Jewish toddler.
So, if the gifts of the wise men weren’t just normal presents, what were they?

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, King David prophesied a day when God the Father would give the Gentile nations, all the Gentile nations, to his Son as his inheritance (Psalm 2:7-8). The gifts that the wise men brought Jesus were not like the presents that we give one another. They were royal gifts with special meaning. The gold, frankincense and myrrh were products of the country that the wise men came from, and represented their country’s homage (honor and willing submission) to Jesus, the real “King of the Jews” and the “Son” spoken of in Psalm 2.


We Christians are so used to thinking of ourselves as “God’s special people” that we sometimes forget that it wasn’t always so. At the time Jesus was born, most of the world in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia (including your ancestors, unless you’re Jewish!) did not know or worship Yahweh God. And so we should remember to read with great joy and thankfulness the story of these wise men, these “firstfruits” from among the Gentile nations. For they were not only the first trickle of the flood of nations that would pour into God’s Kingdom after Pentecost. But as such, they are our spiritual ancestors. Thanks be to God for His mercy to the Gentiles!


—Pastor Gene Helsel, Trinity Church, Wenatchee, Washington


PRAYER
Gracious Heavenly Father, just like You promised, You have given all the nations to Your Son Jesus as his rightful inheritance. You have placed all things under his feet, given him rule and dominion over everything in heaven and on earth, and caused wise men in every age to seek him. Help us to worship You, in Jesus our lord, by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And use our humble worship and joyful obedience to bring our whole nation into the glad service of King Jesus. AMEN.


APPLICATION
Where were your ancestors at the time Jesus was born? What were they doing then? When did the Gospel of Jesus Christ come to your ancestors? Is your country living today in joyful obedience to King Jesus? The wise men offered their gifts, themselves and their country to Christ. When you worship God on Sunday morning, do you remember to represent and pray for your country as you do?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

JANUARY 5—Twelfth Day of Christmas


MATTHEW 2:9-10

9When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Today brings to a close our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas. Tomorrow opens a new season; the season of Epiphany. On this day our reading reminds us of the marvelous way in which the birth of our Savior was announced to the Gentile nations. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16).

Many questions have been raised about the star that the Magi saw and the way in which it guided them to the place of our Lord's nativity. Wrangling about whether the star was really a star or maybe a comet or perhaps a miracle of some sort misses the point. Whatever the Magi from the East saw, the important thing to notice is what they did when they saw it. They obeyed the revelation they were given. They followed the star. And when they understood that the star had come to stand over the place where the child Jesus lay they responded with exceeding joy.

Christmas is a time for Christians to revel in the great goodness of God's revelation in Jesus. All of us were in darkness until the light of Christ shone upon us. Blindly we stumbled about until the dawn of the birth of God's dear Son. These past 12 days we have rejoiced in the gift of Christmas. The Father has sent his Son into the world to give us the light of life. He has sent forth the message to us, not in the form of a star this time, but in the Gospel message. Like the wise men from the East each of us must obey the Gospel word we have been given. We must "walk in the light as He is in the light" (1 John 1:7). And we must, like those men from the East, rejoice greatly that we have now seen the Child of Bethlehem. This is the stuff of exceeding great joy, not only for the 12 days of Christmas, but for every day in every season.

—Pastor Jeff Harlow, Trinity Reformation Church, Salem, Oregon 

PRAYER

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we adore You for the gift of your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We humbly thank you for shedding abroad the light of the Gospel among us. We were darkness. Now you have made us children of light. Give us grace that we might continue in that light all our days and grant us that same exceeding great joy in which the Magi rejoiced. Glory be to you great Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ages to ages the same, AMEN.

CHRISTMAS APPLICATION

Discuss with your family how each of you can show gladness for the coming of Christ and for the Good News of the Gospel. How can you follow God's light today like the Magi followed the Star? Think about what it must have been like to live before the light of Jesus had dawned upon the Gentiles. Give thanks that the light has come!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

JANUARY 4—Eleventh Day of Christmas


MATTHEW 2:7-8

7Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Important men from the east have come into Herod's territory bearing tribute—lavish gifts for a powerful ruler. Thus Herod hears that there is a rightful son of David to rule over Israel's throne, and so he claims he wishes to do obeisance to the newly born king. 

This may remind us of people who claim to be searching for God, and make a wish that He appear to them suddenly with some sign, and they will worship. But of course, the sentiment is as insincere as was Herod's. 

Herod was threatened. Backed into his corner, he did not wish to bow the knee (worship), but to attack the Son. And yet, for all that, Herod unwittingly becomes a support to these visitors from the east. His deceitful words serve to encourage them in their search. For the moment, they were looking in the capital instead of following the star; now they are fortified again to find wisdom in the foolishness of God, and ultimately, in the unlikely town of Bethlehem.

And ironically, they are sent there by Herod himself. And God, the God of the stars of the heavens—one of which led these easterners to the house of His Messiah—God sits in those heavens and laughs.

—Elder Tim Gallant, Christ Covenant Church, Grande Prairie, AB, Canada


PRAYER

Our great and Almighty Father, You have set Your King to reign upon Your own holy hill. We thank You that You have brought us to bend the knee before Him. According to Your promise, we pray that Your kingdom would come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, that the nations would likewise bow before Your Son Jesus Christ, to the glory of Your Name forever, AMEN.

CHRISTMAS APPLICATION

Discuss how the coming of Christ's rule threatens the order of things in this world—and how God overrules the plots of threatened men in order to establish His kingdom.

Monday, January 3, 2011

JANUARY 3—Tenth Day of Christmas


MATTHEW 2:4-6

4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"


DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

One of the most famous passages in Scripture, and the center or hinge of Matthew's gospel comes when Jesus asks His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter responded with the good confession given from above: "Thou art the Christ; the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16:13-17). "Christ" means "anointed one." The Christ was the long-expected ruler/deliverer of Israel. We learn from Colossians 2 that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The Father loves to hide things for His children to find and bring forth with delight, and so the concept of the Christ is deep and wide. Jesus often was met with a partial, incomplete, or distorted view of who and what the Christ would be. Matthew records Peter's rebuking of Jesus right after the good confession; Peter couldn't fathom that the long-awaited Christ would suffer and be put to death.

In Matthew 2, the wise men have just come looking for the newborn king; the Christ is king! The scribes and chief priests told Herod that this king would be born in Bethlehem, and that He would be a shepherd king. He would lead His people out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He would not only lead them beside still waters, He would give them living water to thirst no more. He was from Bethlehem "the house of bread," the true Manna from heaven who gave Himself for the life of the world. This king would be The Good Shepherd, unlike Herod the hireling. This king would not slaughter the children, but would be slaughtered for them; for us. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

—Pastor Mike Ferguson, Providence Reformed Evangelical Church, Grand Junction, Colorado 

PRAYER

Our gracious heavenly Father, You have hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ; and You have hidden the wonders of the world's salvation in Him as well. Continue to reveal the Christ to us, through the word, and as You remake us in His image. And let us continue to reveal Him in the world. In Christ's name we pray, AMEN.

ADVENT APPLICATION

The Christ would be a king, a shepherd, a warrior, a defender and deliverer, a friend, an advocate, a servant, a helper, a healer, bread and wine, life and peace, and much more. But hidden in the treasure was the Father's call to be a suffering sacrifice. Can you add anything to the list? Consider each of these aspects of "The Christ" and then consider how suffering and sacrifice add glory and treasure; i.e. Suffering King, sacrificial shepherd, etc.