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Obedience: a family thing

"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love..." 1 Peter 1:22a This verse strikes me. It catches me off-guard, and tells me something I do not expect. I am a Calvinist. About as Calvinist as they come, subscribing to all five points of the classic TULIP acrostic: Total Depravity Unconditional Election Limited Atonement Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints Which basically is a more complex way of saying that I believe salvation to be a work of God, not man, lest anyone boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, when it comes to thinking about purification, my mind typically thinks of the objective purifying we experience by being identified with Christ, our sin-bearer and righteousness-giver (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore my sins in His body, therefore in the eyes of God they no longer are borne by me. Now, let's glance back at our opening verse. How does Peter say his readers have purified their souls? By obedience to the tr

Hating the Sabbath

This is a little more journaly than I normal put up here, because I wrote it straight to me. Hope it's helpful . Yesterday was Sunday. My only day off of the week. Andie made breakfast, we went to church as a family. Surprisingly, both kids sat through the entirety of the sermon. That was a relief. Andie took them home during Sunday School, and I taught a class. Was filling in for another teacher, so I taught on the importance of the preached word, taking Romans 10:13-17 amd 1 Timothy 3:15-4:2 as my primary texts. Rest of the day was wholly unproductive. Took the family to Taco Johns, tried unsuccessfully to nap, then went to my mother-in-law's house (our normal destination on a Sunday afternoon). Spent the rest of the day watching football and a movie. It could have been a relaxing, enjoyable afternoon. Instead, I spent a good part of the time fretting over what I wasn't getting done. I have next week's Sunday School lesson to prep. I have two Absolute curriculu

Jesus Calling

Some thoughts thought along the mail route today: I reflect often on the inclination of Christians-praying, church attending, Bible reading Christians-to desire something more from their Christian life than, well, what I just described. There is, it seems to me, a very pervasive attitude that says, "yes, praying, church, Bible reading. All well and good, but I want something more. I want God to speak to me personally." I want to address, not the sole cause of this, but a particular cause that I believe to be both large and overlooked. Let's start with some Bible. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhor

Approaching Suicide

I intend to be brief here. In recent days a young woman named Brittany Maynard has made headlines with her campaign for "death with dignity" laws, and for her moving to Oregon recently so that she might take advantage of theirs. Diagnosed with cancer at age 29, Brittany has decided to end her life on November 1st. Many people, including my fellow Christians, are distraught over this. Over her personal choice to end her life, and over the legality of doctors assisting her to do so in Oregon and four other states. That we have become a culture willing to celebrate self-murder, as it used to be called, is indeed very disturbing. I do not wish to argue those concerns, but rather applaud them. Exodus 20:13 is very succinct on this subject, "You shall not murder." We don't have the right to kill another person (we can discuss times of war and capital punishment another day). You also do not have a right to kill yourself. Why? Because our bodies do not fundamentally

A dim mirror?

1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. Paul says here that, in this life, we see dimly. Those of you who spend much time reading Christian books or blogs will doubtless come across an argument something like this: "because we can only see dimly, and as finite creatures could never fully know the infinite God, we shouldn't focus too much on trying to nail down what the Bible says or means; because by its own admission, we never will." What I want to encourage you with is this: if God had given us the tools (eg, the Bible, a rational mind, books and other resources from others who have studied) with which to make the mirror less dim in this life, we have no only the ability but the responsibility to make use of those means and to understand Him as well in this life as we possibly can. Don't be afraid to think really hard about God. He wants to be

Christian words

A brief doctrine of words. Christians worship the Word (John 1:1), whom we know through His word (John 5:39). We are called to be His ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), a task which demands the use of words (Romans 10:14). Words matter. God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:2), who, as we have already said, we come to know through the written pages of Scripture. This Scripture, and the knowledge it brings us of God in Christ, is sufficient to bring salvation, to teach us all we need to know in order to live God honoring lives, and to equip us for all He has called us to do (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We should then study this word. Its message is life giving and life enabling. We ought to endeavor to communicate its life-giving truth to others, verbally and through the written page. Words are foundational to our life as humans, image bearers of the God who spoke all life into existence (Genesis 1). But they bear special importance for those of us who

Awe and Wonder

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14 NIV Jesus' words in Matthew 19 are familiar to many of us. You have most likely heard a sermon, read a blog, or been encouraged by someone to be more childlike in your faith. This is, I think, a good thing. Jesus does tell us here that "to such as these" belong the kingdom of heaven. But what does that mean? Again, we are familiar with exhortations to such things as humility and simple faith. I have no desire to contradict those here, both are concepts taught many other places in Scripture. I wonder, however, if we miss something when we equate childlikeness only with humility and trusting faith. I am far from being a child expert, but I have been around a few during the course of my life.

10 Influences

I read an interesting list today from Drew G. I. Hart over at the Christian Century on 10 books that had "stuck" with him (you can read that piece here: http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2014-09/10-books). I thought posting a list of my own would be fun. Bear in mind that my reading is fairly narrow and some books have, I'm sure, made impacts on me that I do not consciously notice or remember, making these lists far more fun than useful. But they are fun. In no particular order: 1. The Holiness of God: R.C. Sproul 2. Don't Waste Your Life: John Piper 3. The Great Divorce: C.S. Lewis 4. Bonhoeffer: Eric Metaxas 5. Future Grace: John Piper 6. Lasting Valor: Vernon Baker 7. A Sweet and Bitter Providence: John Piper 8. Surprised by Joy: C.S. Lewis 9. Radical: David Platt 10. Systematic Theology: Wayne Grudem

Valuing Life

Just a couple brief thoughts. I was flipping back through Rodney Stark's, "The Triumph of Christianity" yesterday. And one of the themes he explains to be prominent in the early years of the church was the opposition to the (widely embraced) practice of infanticide. The exposing of children to the elements, often on dump heaps, was most often done to little girls because the culture valued men more highly. Christians, following in the footsteps of the Jews, rightly rejected this practice as abominable to God, who created mankind in His own image. And this seeing of humans, women and girls included, as the image bearers of God, is the only sure footing for valuing human life and protecting the dignity of all persons. And furthermore, this valuing of life provides a stark contrast to much of the world around us. It did in ancient Rome, it does in China with one child laws, it does in America with abortion on demand. -------- Most of my conservative Christian readers we

Christian America?

I have, for a while now, been attempting to communicate to very well-meaning folks that there is not, and has never been a truly Christian nation; and that this statement includes America. I mean to tackle this at length at a later date, but for now here are a couple quotes from Rodney Stark's book, "The Triumph of Christianity" (HarperCollins, 2011). Emphasis is added. "In 1776, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, only about 17 percent of those living in one of the thirteen colonies actually belonged to a religious congregation ; hence more people were probably drinking in the taverns on Saturday night than turned up in church on Sunday morning. As for this being an 'era of Puritanism,' from 1761 through 1800, a third (33.7) of all first births in New England occurred less than nine months after marriage, and therefore single women in Colonial New England were more likely to engage in premarital sex than to attend church." (353) "The very low l

Loving Yourself

A brief thought here. God never says "love yourself," "accept yourself," or "I think you're wonderful." He says, "You're made in My image, which makes you valuable beyond belief. You are also desperately wicked and broken and deserve to be under my wrath in hell forever. But I love you. Not because you deserve it. You don't. You don't deserve my love or anyone else's. But I choose to love you. I sent my Son to die for you and reconcile you to myself. I'm better than self-love and self-acceptance, and I'm better than love and acceptance from others. I am the greatest person and reality in the universe, and if you will embrace me as your greatest treasure, you will come to see that your need for approval elsewhere isn't actually a need. It is a desire that will shrink until one day, when I perfect you, it will be gone." Check Romans 3, 5, 8, and 9. This is important. Self-love is one of Satan's biggest ploys

Learning the Bible

I have noticed an encouraging trend. That being the urge to provide high quality Biblical education to anyone who wants it, either free of charge or for a very minimal cost. The traditional paradigm of going to Bible college or seminary if you want to learn about the Bible or pursue ministry is either impractical or impossible for many people. If this is you, here are three links you may want to check out Biblical Training http://www.biblicaltraining.org/ Bible Training Center http://www.rmbible.org/btc/index.html Contenders Bible School http://www.machias.org/bible-school.aspx I'm a graduate of the Bible Training Center, so my bias is there. However, my main encouragement to you would be to plug into something like this (if your church offers similar classes, so much the better!). If you can go to a brick and mortar school, that is wonderful. Many can't or won't. Don't let that stop you from pursuing a deeper knowledge of God and His word. As I said, this tr

Michael Sam, Matt Walsh, and the rest of it

Before we dive in, I think a slight preface is in order. I try not to comment too often on current events, for a number of reasons. First of all, I spent several years of my life totally wrapped around what was current, and the reality of this age is that what is current today is obsolete tomorrow. Even stories that get run for a week or more will be long forgotten by this time next year. Why become wrapped up in what is transient? Secondly, it is often hard to see enough of an issue to make intelligent comment upon it when the issue is still upon us. There are more reasons, but those two will suffice for now. So why am I writing now? Well, I am angry. Last week Michael Sam was taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft, becoming the first openly homosexual player to have had this honor. Unless something goes terribly wrong in training camp or preseason, he will become the first openly homosexual man to play in the NFL. This of course is no small feat considering the hyper-testost

Though Night was Dark

Wind shifts, rain falls Storm comes, night calls Rainbow disappears in grey Daytime slowly drifts away Clouds block starlight Thunder brings fright Lightning brightens up night sky Sticks and branches start to fly Day comes, storm lifts Wind dies, clouds drift Fresh rain smell saturates air Though night was dark, day is fair

Shadow to Reality

Today, roughly 1,980 years ago, Jesus observed the Passover with his disciples for the last time, pointing toward the next day when he would become their Passover lamb. His atoning, sin covering, wrath absorbing blood is applied to all who place their faith and trust in Him; those who would have it placed on the proverbial doorposts of their souls. The first Passover was a shadow, a picture of Christ to come. It pointed year after year to the necessity of blood to cover sin, and the deliverance afforded to those who trusted God. Jesus made the final sacrifice, and covered it once for all.

Crazy Militia Cows

Preface: I am writing in a state of mind that Martin Luther would call beneficial: seething anger. Seething. By the time you read this, the story of Cliven Bundy’s cattle being released will be old news, but as I type it is hot off the presses (proverbial as those presses are nowadays).  What has me in this state of seething rage is the fact that many militia groups and some on the political right are hailing this as a victory for freedom. It is quite the opposite. To be fair, the entirety of the issue is not one-sided. But this much is clear: Cliven Bundy ceased paying the necessary permit fees to graze his cattle on BLM land over 20 years ago, and he now owes the government (read: taxpayers, i.e., you and me) in excess of 1 million dollars. When he refused to comply with orders to remove his cattle from the land they were illegally grazing on, BLM went to the courts, where Bundy lost (twice). BLM was authorized to remove the cattle, which were illegally on federal property, and Bu

Warm day

Oak trees stand naked, stark White snow contrasts against gray bark Squirrels more active in the trees Robin's call cuts through the breeze Snow melt begins, ice as well Spring, or fluke ? Time will tell

And that was enough

"When I was young in the mountains, I never wanted to go to the ocean, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted to go anywhere else in the world, for I was in the mountains. And that was enough." Cynthia Rylant , When I Was Young in the Mountains

On Family Devotions

Family devotions. Probably two of the scariest words that the average church-going man with children can hear. First there is the feeling of the Holy Spirit's prodding; the, this is a good thing worth pursuing, thought that you know didn't come from your own mind. Then there is the overwhelming realization that you have no clue where to start, the possibility for it to be terribly awkward, and uncertainty as to how your family will take this new-found initiative. These generally combine with the overall busyness of our lives to produce inaction. Which leads to our final product, guilt. Sound familiar? It does to me. I have no heroic story of overcoming my folly. I simply have a wife who finally asked me when we were going to start doing family devotions, and about a week of doing them under our belts. There have been no deep conversations or children getting saved (my daughter is not yet one!). But I do have a few thoughts as to why this is worth it, and some suggestions that

Bad Coincidence

"By tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal under-educating in literacy has coincided with this unexpected explosion of global self-publishing. Thus people who don't know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll." Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves pg 182

Humming the tune

"On the page, punctuation performs its grammatical function, but in the mind of the reader it does more than that. It tells the reader how to hum the tune." Lynne Truss, "Eats, Shoots, & Leaves" pg 71

It matters how you say it

"What the poet has to say is inextricably intertwined with the way in which he says it, and our appreciation of his ultimate message is enhanced by our delight in his method of presenting it." Brandon Matthews, "A Study of Versification"