Archive for the ‘Perspective’ Category

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The Word of God: How Am I to Love God by Loving It?

In Perspective on January 8, 2014 by The Spillover

Love is a complex thing. Contrary to popular notions, love is not a feeling or an emotion that you can fall into and then fall out of. Love is complex, meaning that love involves many things. Classically speaking, our human faculties are made up of the mind, the will, and the affections. Using these, then, love is rooted in knowledge; love is exercised in willful decision; and love is experienced in the affections. To love someone involves all of this. To love someone means that you also love the things about someone. This is most true of our love for God. We love Him, and that leads us to love everything about Him. One of those things is His Word. To love God is to love his Word. As Psalm 119 says, “Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).

Because the Word is the means that God uses to speak to us, we need to love it and use it. Let me meditate with you on how.

By My Duty to Read It

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone, and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. As the psalmist said, “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20). Show him you love him by reading his Word. Scripture explains that we do this in three ways.

Publicly

We love God by loving His Word read publicly. This was done in the ancient Jewish synagogue, as evidenced by Jesus’ entering the synagogue and performing the appointed reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16–24). This was done in the ancient Christian church, as evidenced by Paul’s words (1 Thess. 5:27Col. 4:16). This continued in the ancient church. For example, Justin Martyr said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits” (First Apology, ch. 67). And Tertullian said, “We assemble to read our sacred writings … with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast” (Apology, ch. 39).

As a Family

We love God by loving His Word read as a family, if the Lord provides us with a family. Moses exhorted Israel, saying, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:6–7). This practice of the covenant people was experienced by Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:14–15). Family Bible reading is necessary to propagate the Christian religion in our children. Studies show the rising generation in American churches leaving those churches; is it any wonder when parents, especially fathers, are not taking the time to read the Word with their children? Ignorance of Scripture leads to ignorance of Christ.

Privately

We love God by loving His Word read privately. Psalm 1 speaks of the singular “man” (v. 1) who is blessed because “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (v. 2). To read the Word and meditate upon the Word as a believer causes one to be like a well-watered and fruitful tree (v. 3). Psalm 119 is also the meditation of an individual believer: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97, emphasis mine). Meditating on the Word makes one wise (v. 98), makes one godly (v. 101), and gives us a spiritual delight as the Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103). This is why one writer said, “To neglect [the reading of the Word] is to despise our own souls, and deprive ourselves of the advantage of God’s instituted means of grace.” If you love God, it is your duty to read the Word of God.

By My Delight to Receive It

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my delight to receive it. Again, think about receiving a present. The word present is just another way of saying “gift.” And what does the word gift mean? It means an act of grace—that a person gives you something not because you deserve it, but because they decided to express their love.

Ten times in the great Psalm 119 we read of the psalmist praising the Lord for receiving the Lord’s Word, saying he “delights” in the Word (Ps. 119:14162435,47707792143174). Why? Because the Word is the living Word of the Lord to us, His people. The psalmist also describes his delight in the Word in comparison to other delightful things. He compares the Word to gold and silver, saying in verse 72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (cf. v. 127). He compares the Word to honey, saying in verse 103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Elsewhere in Scripture, we read of the Word being compared to other things such as these. The Word is compared to a sword that defends against spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:17). The Word is compared to a lamp that guides us (Ps. 119:105). The Word is compared to milk that nourishes our souls (1 Peter 2:2).

If you love God, it is your duty to read the Word and your delight to receive it as the very Word of the true and living God.

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Death Rehearsal

In Perspective on January 1, 2014 by The Spillover

John Piper:

Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and withers. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:5–6, 12)

For me, the end of a year is like the end of my life. And 11:59 pm on December 31 is like the moment of my death.

The 365 days of the year are like a miniature lifetime. And these final hours are like the last days in the hospital after the doctor has told me that the end is very near. And in these last hours, the lifetime of this year passes before my eyes, and I face the inevitable question: Did I live it well? Will Jesus Christ, the righteous judge, say “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

I feel very fortunate that this is the way my year ends. And I pray that the year’s end might have the same significance for you.

The reason I feel fortunate is that it is a great advantage to have a trial run at my own dying. It is a great benefit to rehearse once a year in preparation for the last scene of your life. It is a great benefit because the morning of January 1 will find most of us alive, at the brink of a whole new lifetime, able to start fresh all over again.

The great thing about rehearsals is that they show you where your weaknesses are, where your preparation was faulty; and they leave you time to change before the real play.

I suppose for some of you the thought of dying is so morbid, so gloomy, so fraught with grief and pain that you do your best to keep it out of your minds, especially during holidays. I think that is unwise and that you do yourself a great disservice. For I have found that there are few things more revolutionizing for my life than a periodic pondering of my own death.

How do you get a heart of wisdom so as to know how best to live? The psalmist answers:

Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and withers. So teach us to number our daysthat we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:5, 6, 12)

Numbering your days simply means remembering that your life is short and your dying will be soon. Great wisdom — great, life-revolutionizing wisdom — comes from periodically pondering these things.

The criterion of success that Paul used to measure his life was whether he had kept the faith. This is what I want us to focus on.

And if we discover that we did not keep the faith this past year, then we can be glad, as I am, that this year-end death is (we hope) only a rehearsal, and a whole life of potential faith-keeping lies before us in the next year.

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God’s Indescribable Gift

In Perspective,Soul Food on December 24, 2013 by The Spillover

John Piper:

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10–11)

How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God? One answer is do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible — the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament — the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing “the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” And in verse 6, he says it is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face of Christ.

Practically, to exult in God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 says.

So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11), but even now, verse 11 says, we exult in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping — the indescribable gift — as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God.

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures.

Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.

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The Real Festivus Miracle

In Perspective on December 23, 2013 by The Spillover

David Mathis:

December 23 is circled on my calendar. It’s marked as a day to take a deep breath, refocus, and head into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with a fresh sense of what this frenzied season is really about.

By December 23, most of us are up to our necks in holiday craziness and commercialization. We feel like we’re once again stumbling toward Christmas, exhausted and depleted by the most consumeristic season in history’s most consumeristic civilization. Two days before Christmas is just enough time to grab the smelling salts, wake ourselves up from the trance of holiday hustle and bustle, and remind ourselves, and our families, what we’re doing anyways.

Something from a Show About Nothing

When inundated with the pressures and relentless commercializing of the Christmas season, one memorable personality on the sitcom Seinfeld abandoned Christmas altogether and made up his own holiday, or anti-holiday, called “Festivus.” In the 1997 episode “The Strike,” Frank Costanza, the father of Jerry Seinfeld’s good friend George, claimed December 23 for a new observance, complete with an aluminum pole, airing of grievances, feats of strength, and, thanks to Cosmo Kramer, Festivus miracles.

Frank’s exasperation about what Christmas has become may resonate with you, not because you’re the curmudgeon he was, but because you’re an earnest Christian who would rather celebrate the unparalleled significance of Jesus’s incarnation without all the frills and distraction of endless sales and endless Santa.

So what’s a Christian to do in this seasonal malaise?

That Curious Christmas Amalgam

Scottish theologian Donald Macleod has shared Frank’s frustrations, but they’re the product of a vastly different worldview. Macleod’s angst over what Christmas has become is less convenience and more Christian.

Every year the world — and the church — experiences Christmas, that curious amalgam of paganism, commercialism, and Christianity which Western civilization has invented to tide it over the darkest days of the winter. Christmas is a lost opportunity, a time when the world invites the Church to speak and she blushes, smiles, and mutters a few banalities with which the world is already perfectly familiar from its own stock of clichés and nursery rhymes. (From Glory to Golgotha, 9)

While we Christians can sympathize with Frank’s disillusionment, our response will be much more like Macleod’s, even if with a little less edge.

Extra Effort to Make Jesus Explicit

It’s doubtful that the best way forward for Christians is to abandon Christmas and make up some new holiday that gets it all right. Macleod’s solution has a better chance. When the world makes so much of a holiday once so deeply Christian, and thus tacitly invites Jesus’s followers to speak, let’s not blush, smile, and mutter a few banalities. Let’s speak with clarity and conviction.

Let’s talk in concrete terms about why we celebrate, and whom, about the day when God became man, without ceasing to be God, that he might live among us as fully human and die the death we deserved for our collective and individual rebellions against him.

Let’s make it plain in our homes, and among our extended families, and for our friends, that Christmas is not a fantastical birthday party for a tribal deity, but as Macleod says, “the perforation of history by One from eternity . . . the intrusion and eruption of the Eternal into the existence of man.” Christmas has a spectacular Light that the seasonal glitz and glamor incessantly threatens to obscure, but is much too precious to let be dimmed.

Feats of Strength and the Festivus Miracle

We don’t need to abandon wholesale the tinsel and bells and mistletoe like Frank, but we do need to be particularly vigilant to keep ourselves, and those we love, from being occupied with everything that has become Christmas, except the God-man in the manger.

For the Christian, the best answer to the Christmas mess isn’t some new holiday — entertaining as the idea of “playful consumer resistance” made for a beloved sitcom. Our comeback is clarity and explicitness about the true miracle of Christmas, that God himself, in the person of Jesus, took a true human body and a reasonable human soul (as the ancient creed puts it) that, fully God and fully man, he might bring us humans from our mess to himself.

In the midst of layer after layer of holiday common graces, which quickly become distraction after distraction of the celebration’s true essence, it is a beautiful thing, when for an unhurried moment, everything else stops and some Linus reads from chapter two of the Gospel of Luke, and some loving father presses home the meaning. These are the true feats of strength.

So perhaps this year the real Festivus miracle would be that a fictional anti-holiday would remind us here on December 23 to pause, catch our breath, and give some fresh effort to making central the true miracle of the God-man in our December 24 and 25 celebrations.

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Holiday Family-Time Wisdom

In Perspective,Videos on December 17, 2013 by The Spillover

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Importance, real or perceived

In Perspective on December 11, 2013 by The Spillover

Ray Ortlund:

If I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 2 Corinthians 12:6

God had given the apostle Paul an amazing spiritual experience — apparently, some kind of guided tour of heaven.  If Paul had wanted to “wow” the rest of us, he easily could have.  But for fourteen years he told no one about it, quietly keeping it to himself, wonderful though it was.  He didn’t exploit his remarkable experience to enhance his ministry.

Paul was deeply secure in Christ.  He was content for people to perceive him and rate him on the basis of what they themselves could observe in him – not what he could claim, even rightly claim, but the ordinary human realities they could see and hear.  It was the fraudulent “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5) who trotted out their big-deal-ness.  Moreover, Paul really wasn’t impressive in some ways that typically count in this world.  He deliberately chose not to be.  He did have the power of Christ resting upon him.  But even that came out most clearly in his weaknesses.  And as I said, Paul was okay with people reaching their own conclusions about all this.  He didn’t groom an image.  He wouldn’t stoop to it.  The reality of Christ was too significant.

I wonder if the apostolic approach to clout satisfies us today.  I hope so.  But sometimes I wonder.  So much of this is down in our motives.  That makes it impossible for anyone to judge.  Who can see another person’s heart?  But whatever looks like self-promotion, even if the claims are true and accurate — it just doesn’t pass the whiff test.

Rather than justify the accepted patterns of gathering attention to oneself, maybe we should scrutinize more radically the conversation going on in our heads.  Maybe we should be asking, “How do I need to become more honest and less impressive, so that the only reason people pay attention to me is the power of Christ resting upon me?”

My own thoughts keep returning to our need for revival — an outpouring of divine power to purify the church and compel the attention of the world.  I have to wonder what there is about me right now, the Ray Ortlund who currently exists, that inadvertently counteracts the power of God?  I wonder what changes I need to make, to become “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21)?  Whatever those changes are, I expect they will decrease, rather than increase, my impulses toward all forms of self-importance.

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Lay Aside the Weight of Christmas Expectations

In Perspective on December 6, 2013 by The Spillover

Jon Bloom:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

At Christmastime, it’s good for us to remember just how dangerous fantasies are.

I’m not talking about Narnia-type fantasies. I’m talking about how out of our self-centered desires we construct ideas and expectations of the way we want things to be and project them on to people and events. If those people or events don’t meet our expectations we grumble and sulk and lose our tempers.

Fantasy-fueled expectations can easily become tyrants. At Christmas they are often the Scrooges and Grinches of our celebrations. Less flatteringly, they are the devils in the garden of God’s gracious love.

Christmas for Christians is a celebration of the Incarnation, that wonderful, impenetrable, mysterious moment when the Word who spoke all things into being (John 1:3) and held them all together by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3) became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). When YHWH “for a little while was made lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9). When he who knew no sin entered the world as a bloody infant to become sin for us on a bloody cross that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Selah.

Not Like They Expected

If there ever was a holiday to celebrate and worship God in his sovereign control over things not going the way we planned, it’s Christmas. Very little went as Joseph and Mary expected. Joseph hadn’t expected the painful decision to divorce Mary. He hadn’t expected all the difficult unplanned detours that took them to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, then eventually back to Nazareth. Neither of them had expected this holy Child to be born in a stable of desperation.

No one expected the Messiah to come from Galilee (John 7:52), no one expected him to be (formally) uneducated (John 7:15), and no one expected him to literally be the Son of God (John 10:30–33).

Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the unexpected Jesus.

Selah.

Beware the Hollow Echoes

That’s why we need to be aware of how much we are influenced by the American cultural holiday we call Christmas, because it is almost entirely a fantasy-fueled expectation factory. It’s a hodgepodge collage of images and tales from Dickensian England, Rockwellian America, our own childhoods, and consumer marketing. It’s trimmed with vague notions of joy and peace (hollow echoes of their Luke 2:10–14 origins), and sometimes includes sentimental scenes of a wise, glowing Child in a manger surrounded by serene livestock and European-looking Semites and Persians. And all of this is set to a trans-generational pop superstar soundtrack.

The false myth of this Christmas is that if we can get it to look like the whimsical hazy collage in our minds, we will experience the “Christmas spirit” and be happy.

The problem is, of course, that everyone’s collage is different. The result is that Christmas fantasy expectations are disappointed. And all too often selfishness suffocates love, lashes out in some form of aggressive or passive anger and destroys whatever joy and peace there may have been.

That’s what makes fantasies so dangerous. They are almost always self-centered attempts to seek happiness by forcing reality to conform to our imagination, which we have no power to do. They make unattainable demands and leave us and others disillusioned.

The True Christmas Spirit

So as our celebrations approach, let’s resolve to lay aside the weight and entangling sin (Hebrews 12:1) of selfish Christmas fantasies and look to Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6–8)

This is the true Christmas spirit. Christ did not grasp; he served. And oh, how he served.

Advent season is the celebration of the unexpected Jesus coming at an unexpected time in an unexpected place to pay the unexpected, unfathomable price to give us unexpecting sinners the undeserved gift of complete forgiveness of sin and unimaginable gift of eternal life.

Christmas is not about fulfilling our holiday expectations. It’s about celebrating Jesus’s overwhelming accomplishment for us and following in his humble servant footsteps.

So when things don’t go the way we expect them this season, let us rejoice in the God who rules the unexpected and,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves]. (Philippians 2:3)

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A Prayer for Owning Impatience and Grumpiness

In Perspective on November 20, 2013 by The Spillover

Scotty Smith:

 As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Heb. 12:15

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Heavenly Father, I start my up humbled and repentant. I readily acknowledge my need for the gospel today, just like every day. I need it for being patient and kind for life in a broken world among other broken people. I own my weakness; help me not to despise the weakness of others.

Though I’d love to justify myself, there is no such justification. I’m a selfish man, who would love for everything and everyone to make my life predictable, manageable and enjoyable. I assume green lights when I’m driving and open check out lines when I’m shopping; the fish will bite and no one will make me late; whining from others, will be seldom and gratitude in them, often.

Worse, I don’t want people to fear the stuff they should fear, struggle with the same things struggle with, or simply be the normal, broken sinners that we all are. God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Abba, Father, I’m so thankful that your love for me is steadfast and limitless, and that I can count on new mercies every morning, including this morning. I not only grieve my attitude, I do repent and abandon myself to the resources of the gospel.

Lord Jesus, I want and I need your power to rest on me and to settle my restless heart. I’ll not pray about next week or even tomorrow. Just give me the manna of gospel kindness for this one day. Help me to respond gently and not react rigidly to the weaknesses of others. Help me to roll up my sleeves and not roll my eyes when I meet brokenness in others. Help me to love as you love me, for that is the bottom line, and the top priority. So very Amen, I pray in your patient and powerful name.

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An Honest Heart

In Perspective on November 4, 2013 by The Spillover

Ray Ortlund:

We cannot deceive God.  Twice in the Acts God is called “the Heartknower” (Acts 1:24;15:8).  But we can deceive ourselves.  Here are four differences between deceit and honesty in our hearts.

One, a deceitful heart doesn’t know its sins because it doesn’t want to know.  But an honest heart is saying, “I’m listening.  I’m open.”

Two, a deceitful heart is more alert to how a sermon applies to someone else.  But an honest heart is too concerned about itself to be busy with other people’s weaknesses.

Three, a deceitful heart, when it isn’t growing, blames its inertia on hardship or its church or even on God himself.  But an honest heart says, “I need to get in gear.”

Four, a deceitful heart delays response: “I’ll get around to it.  But I just can’t right now.”  An honest heart puts God first: “Lord, whatever you want, even right now.”

An honest heart says, with the old hymn,

The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne and worship only thee.

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Three Prayers for Facing Monday

In Perspective on October 28, 2013 by The Spillover

Jonathan Parnell:

This is one of those really deep, common truths — one which Jonathan Edwards expounds with the intellectual horsepower of a genius, and to which our most common experience testifies:

Essential to our present joy is the anticipation of greater joy to come.

This is why, for example, the best part of going on vacation is often the day before we start it. The glad anticipation of what will be compounds in the present and gives us a good feeling. But the closer we get to the last day of vacation, the more the joy diminishes. Sound familiar?

In American culture, the weekend can be a miniature version of this experience. After five days of work, many of us look forward to two days off on Saturday and Sunday. The height of anticipation comes Friday — TGIF! — but by Sunday evening the cheer is gone. Tomorrow we face Monday, with all its certain trials and trying uncertainties.

So how will you face it? How can we make the most of Sunday to prepare for the less-than-enthusiastic tomorrow?

In complement to corporate worship, here are three prayers for facing Monday:

1. Give me a brazen trust in your greatness and your goodness.

Whatever circumstances may come our way tomorrow, the most foundational truth we need to know is that God is in control, and that he is good. Many of us can recite the dinnertime prayer “God is great, God is good…” — but we need more than a good memory for this fact to take effect. We need faith. We need a brazen trust — an indomitable confidence — that our God rules the kingdom of men, that no purpose of his can be hindered, that all he pleases to do he does (Daniel 4:17Job 42:2Psalm 115:3). And that he abounds in steadfast love, that he is compassionate and merciful, that his nearness is our good (Exodus 34:6James 5:11Psalm 73:28).

Saying it is one thing; believing it is another. So we ask God for this faith.

2. Give me a humble heart towards the people I will encounter.

Most circumstances we face involve faces. Real people. People with their own stories. People with eternal souls. This means oftentimes how we face situations is really about how we relate to others. And what we need is humility. We need a deep, sincere sense that we are creatures. If the first prayer is to know the greatness and goodness of God, this second prayer is to know that greatness and goodness are original to him, not us. We are not that great. We are not that good.

Admitting this doesn’t come natural. So we ask God for this heart.

3. Give me the deep joy that because of Jesus, the best is always yet to come.

This is no cliché. No too-good-to-be-true platitude. For the Christian, the best is always,always, yet to come. The first two prayers come together in this one: a great God will judge all evil, a good God will show mercy, and Jesus vividly showed both for the helpless.

On the cross, Jesus simultaneously absorbed God’s wrath for sinners and demonstrated God’s love for sinners (Romans 3:255:8). And because he did this, because we are united to him by faith, no circumstance in this life is worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us. The best is always yet to come. Even in eternity, as Edwards explains, we will never stop saying this.

And that is reason for unwavering celebration. So we ask for this deep joy.

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Orthodoxy of Community

In Perspective on October 23, 2013 by The Spillover

Via Ray Ortlund:

One cannot explain the explosive dynamite, the dunamis, of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see.  By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community.  Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community, but exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.

–Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church before the Watching World (Downers Grove, 1971), page 62.

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Getting Bored With the Right Things

In Perspective,Soul Food on October 17, 2013 by The Spillover

Jared C. Wilson:

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
– Mark 14:39-41

Jesus is in emotional and psychological agony in this garden. He is sweating blood. And the disciples are sawing logs.

One of the important exercises in reading Scripture is making connections. Thinking through what passages and narratives the passage or narrative before us reminds us of. Where do we see parallels, similarities, foreshadows, fulfillments? Sometimes the exercise doesn’t take us anywhere discernibly meaningful. Many times it does.

As I reflected on this passage, it reminded me of another time in Christ’s ministry, another time when someone was in agony and someone was sleeping. I think of Jesus and his disciples in the boat. The storm is crashing all around them. The disciples are despairing of life itself. It seems they will be sunk and drowned. And Jesus sleeps.

“Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” they cry (Mark 4:38).

As the disciples agonized, Jesus slept. Later, in Gethsemane, as Jesus agonized, the disciples slept. What gives?

Well, it’s just like the disciples – I mean, it’s just like us – to freak out about the world’s storms and be asleep to the things of the cross.

Whether it’s outrage about the sinful state of popular media — whatever new scandal the news people want you to get mad about — or fear about the declining state of our political process — “It’s the Democrats!”; “No, it’s the Republicans!”; “No, it’s politicians!” — or just the crushing anxiety of everyday demands and stresses, in the flesh we are like the disciples in that boat, thinking the skies are crashing down on us as if God is not in control, as if all sin will not be judged, as if justice will not prevail, as if the church will not endure, as if the Spirit is not ever-present and all-powerful, as if our hopes are pinned to what happens to our bodies and bodies politic. But when it comes to the things of the gospel, we can barely keep ourselves awake.

But not Jesus. He has the right priorities. When it comes to the temptations of earthly things, the temporal stresses of cultural idolatry, he is practically stoic, uninterested.

e.g. “What about taxes, Jesus? God, the tax burden!”
“Pay them,” Jesus says.
“But they’re so oppressive!”
“Pay them,” he says.

He’s revealing his view of temporal things. And exposing our false comforts and idolatrous securities.

Insist Jesus order the stress du jour, and he will decline. But when it comes to redeeming sinners — to the praise of his glorious grace! — he brings all his energy to bear. Show him the array of worldly treasures offered by the glossy pages in the grocery checkout line, their bold lines and photoshopped bait promising lurid gossip and fabricated scandals, and he rolls his eyes. Show him the latest People magazine cover, and he will yawn. (Oh, that Christians would YAWN more when the world tries to bait us into outrage over shallow things!) But show Jesus not People magazine, but people — needy, desperate, sinful people — people who are like sheep without a shepherd — put him in the thickest thick of dealing with souls, and he weeps, he prays, he loves.

In the light of Christ’s cross, may we find the Spiritual energy to carry our own cross and the courageous conviction to be utterly bored by comparison with the stuff that is passing away. And let’s remember Jesus blood in that garden and on the cross was for those sleeping disciples. Now that is something amazing. And exciting. Let’s get bored with the right things.

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We Are Our Secrets

In Being Real,Perspective on October 8, 2013 by The Spillover

Ray Ortlund:

O. Hobart Mowrer, the psychologist, set himself to understand more deeply our hollowed-out emotional lives.  He noted that, commonly, when we perform a good deed, we advertise it, display it, draw attention to it, at least hint at it, hoping to collect on the emotional credit of it.  But when we do something cheap, evil or stupid, we hide it, deny it, minimize it.  But the emotional discredit from that stays with us and even accumulates with each further hypocrisy.  This is how we make ourselves chronically empty in conscience and heart.  Our lives are required of us, and we are found wanting.  No felt “net worth.”  Lost confidence, pizzazz.  Our positive energies are depleted by fugitive concealing.

Then Mowrer wondered, What if we reversed our strategy?  What if we admitted our weaknesses, owned up to our failures, named our idiot-moments, confessed our follies, errors and debts, and also hid away from everyone’s view our smart ideas, heroic sacrifices, kind deeds, charities and virtues?  What if, instead of throwing back at the other guy his worst failure while trotting out our own best moment, we put up our worst against his best?  What then?  Our hearts might start filling up.

He entitled his essay “You are your secrets.”  It is in his book The New Group Therapy (New York, 1964), pages 65-71.  His insight has a long and honored history:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. . . . Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:14).

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The Danger of Moralistic Parenting

In Perspective on September 27, 2013 by The Spillover

Elyse Fitzpatrick:

Certainly the faith that has empowered the persecuted church for two millennia isn’t as thin and boring as “Say you’re sorry,” “Be nice,” and “Don’t be like them.” Why would anyone want to deny himself, lay down his life, or suffer for something as inane as that? Aside from the “Ask Jesus into your heart” part, how does this message differ from what any unchurched child or Jewish young person would hear every day?

TURNING GOD INTO SANTA

Let’s face it: most of our children believe that God is happy if they’re “good for goodness’ sake.” We’ve transformed the holy, terrifying, magnificent, and loving God of the Bible into Santa and his elves. And instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be-all and end-all of their faith.

This isn’t the gospel; we’re not handing down Christianity. We need much less of Veggie Tales and Barney and tons more of the radical, bloody, scandalous message of the God-man crushed by his Father for our sin.

This other thing we’re giving our children has a name—it’s called “moralism.” Here’s how one seminary professor described his childhood experience in church:

The preachers I regularly heard in the . . . church in which I was raised tended to interpret and preach Scripture without Christ as the central . . . focus. Characters like Abraham and Paul were commended as models of sincere faith and loyal obedience. . . . On the other hand, men like Adam and Judaswere criticized as the antithesis of proper moral behavior. Thus Scripture became nothing more than a source book for moral lessons on Christian living, whether good or bad.

TEACHING GOOD MANNERS INSTEAD OF SALVATION

When we change the story of the Bible from the gospel of grace to a book of moralistic teachings like Aesop’s fables, all sorts of things go wrong. Unbelieving children are encouraged to display the fruit of the Holy Spirit even though they are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Unrepentant children are taught to say that they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness even though they’ve never tasted true Godly sorrow. Unregenerate kids are told they are pleasing to God because they have achieved some “moral victory.”

Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness. Parents discipline their kids until they evidence a prescribed form of contrition, and others work hard at keeping their children from the wickedness in the world, assuming that the wickedness within their children has been handled because they prayed a prayer one time at Bible club.

THE BIBLE ISN’T A BOOK OF FAIRY TALES

If our “faith commitments” haven’t taken root in our children, could it be because they have not consistently heard them? Instead of the gospel of grace, we’ve given them daily baths in a “sea of narcissistic moralism,” and they respond to law the same way we do: they run for the closest exit as soon as they can.

Moralistic parenting occurs because most of us have a wrong view of the Bible. The story of the Bible isn’t a story about making good little boys and girls better. As Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in The Jesus Storybook Bible:

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life.

 This is the story that our children need to hear and, like us, they need to hear it over and over again.

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Does God Hate Cotton Blend T-shirts?

In Perspective on September 25, 2013 by The Spillover

Mark Driscoll:

My current preaching series on the Ten Commandments is expressly dealing with what is referred to as “the Law.” While most everyone would agree that at least some of the laws in the Old Testament should apply today—no one wants to be robbed and then killed, for example—the controversial question is whether or not all Old Testament laws are binding on Christians today.

This issue is timely, as it has become popular to mock Old Testament laws as outdated, for example, whenever the issue of homosexuality arises in the media. The common way this plays out on television talk shows is simple: The Christian says that the Bible forbids homosexuality. The non-Christian then says that the Bible also forbids eating crab and wearing a poly-cotton blend shirt. Everyone laughs, the Christian loses, and the audience goes home to watch porn.

SOME LAWS NO LONGER APPLY . . . 

When the Bible speaks of law, it usually refers to what human beings are commanded to do by God. This includes not only the Ten Commandments, but all 613 laws listed in the first five books of the Old Testament.

One noted theologian on the law said that the New Testament “clearly teaches that Christians are no longer under the law covenant instituted under Moses.” This is why, when the Bible speaks of the “old covenant” in comparison to the “new covenant,” it is showing us that we are no longer under the law and obligated to it. He goes on to explain, “Romans 10:4 asserts that Christ is the end of the law. . . . Christ is the goal to which the law points; and when the goal is reached, the law also comes to an end.” The entire book of Hebrews is in large part devoted to explaining how Jesus has brought an end to the old covenant law, which is why we do not need a high priest, temple, sacrificial system, and the like. Jesus is our High Priest, the presence of God, and the payment for sin.

This fulfillment of the law explains why certain foodscircumcisionPassover,animal sacrifices, and the Sabbath that were binding in the old covenant are not binding in the new covenant. That new covenant believers no longer live under the old covenant ceremonial and civil law also explains why more obscure commands are no longer binding, such as disciplining people for eating shellfish or forbidding clothes made of two kinds of fabric.

. . . BUT SOME LAWS DO. 

However, there are some moral laws that are listed in both the Old Testament and New Testament. These include every one of the Ten Commandments—with the exception of keeping the Sabbath—including not committing idolatry,honoring parentsnot murderingnot committing adulterynot stealingnot lying, and not coveting.

Determining which laws continue from the old covenant to the new covenant is admittedly difficult. One helpful distinction that can be traced back to the church father Tertullian (AD 160–222) is spoken of by Martin Luther (1483–1546) and is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).

  1. Ceremonial laws—referring to the priesthood, sacrifices, temple, cleanness, and so forth, are now fulfilled in Jesus. These laws are no longer binding on us because Jesus is our priest, temple, sacrifice, cleanser, and so forth.
  2. Civil laws—pertaining to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, we believe these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding on us. Romans 13:1–7 says to obey even non-Christian governments because God will work through them too.
  3. Moral laws—forbidding such things as rape, stealing, and murder. These laws are still binding upon us, even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements through his sinless life.

Categories 1 and 2 are no longer binding, but category 3 is.

IT’S LIKE HIGH SCHOOL

In closing, perhaps a simple illustration will help. In high school there are a lot of rules/laws/requirements that I needed to abide by in order to get an acceptable report card and graduate. Once graduated, some of the laws at my school remained binding upon me while others were fulfilled and are no longer binding. For example, in my school I was not supposed to stab people, blow up public property, or pull fire alarms. Even though I have graduated, those laws remain binding upon me for the rest of my life.

There were other laws, however, that are no longer binding because the requirements were fulfilled. For example, I had to show up a certain number of days for a certain number of hours, I had to sit in class, and I had to take tests and pass them. Now that I have graduated, I no longer have to do any of those things because the demands of the law were fulfilled, which culminated in my graduation.

Similarly, Jesus went to school for me. He got straight A’s in life without ever sinning. He passed every moral test he took. He met every requirement of the law. And, by grace he is my report card. He has given me his GPA/righteousness and because of that I have graduated from the law and am no longer bound by its demands as I once was (Gal. 3:24–26).

However, Jesus is also my Lord and he has chosen some moral laws to remain binding upon me for his glory, and for other’s good. So, I can eat shellfish while wearing a poly-cotton blend but I still cannot murder my neighbor or steal from my employer. Jesus wants me to obey these laws not for my righteousness, but from my righteousness in him and out of love for him and my neighbor.

Articles

Protect the Children from Chemical Weapons

In Perspective on September 13, 2013 by The Spillover

John Knight:

Dear Mr. President,

I am joining the unknown numbers around the world who are praying for wisdom for you as you confront this present evil of chemical weapons in Syria. God has promised to provide wisdom to those who trust in him (James 1:5). I do not offer this cynically. I want God to help you and hope you would welcome his help.

As the pictures of children who died stream across our screens, you are right to declare it unacceptable in our world. Earlier, Secretary Kerry called it a “moral obscenity,” and Vice President Biden noted that these weapons were used “against defenseless men, women, and children.” The desire for justice and peace rises within us for those who have been attacked this way.

What About Our Own Children?

I am grateful for such a clear statement against evil from you and your senior leaders.

But I fear that America is guilty of hypocrisy on this issue of how chemicals are used against defenseless children. You reminded us that Syria and the Nazis used chemicals to kill people; but today it will happen in America. We have no right to claim the moral high ground.

In 2008 alone, almost 200,000 children were killed through chemical or medical abortions in the United States, according to the Jones and Kooistra report. Because of cost and ease of administration, the number of chemical abortions today is likely even higher, though the overall abortion rate has dropped since 2008.

Children with Nowhere to Run

And it is a violent end; when administered “correctly,” mifepristone cuts off the production of a necessary hormone for pregnancies to continue. The baby’s source of life is cut off. Another drug, misoprostol, is then administered to force contractions, expelling the child from her mother’s womb.

Even when the drugs are not effective in “ending the pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers require that a surgical abortion be performed to finish the task.

These victims have nowhere to run or hide. Their doctors are not about to provide comfort or care.

A Tragic Inconsistency

This makes no sense in a nation with a Federal Unborn Victims of Violence law that prosecutes people for violence against unborn children.

A man recently plead guilty in a Florida courtroom to other crimes as part of a deal to avoid being prosecuted under the Unborn Victims of Violence law because he was afraid he would end up in prison for the rest of his life. His crime: tricking his pregnant girlfriend into taking Cytotec, the second drug of the chemical abortion cocktail that kills unborn children.

He was going to be rightfully prosecuted for harming an unborn child using the very drug that is administered every day in abortion clinics and doctors offices across the United States.

Women Harmed As Well

And women are being harmed as well. Though marketed as a safe and less expensive alternative to surgical abortion, the FDA reported in 2011 that since mifepristone was approved in 2000, more than 2200 “adverse events” happened to women, and 14 women have died from using this drug.

Mr. President, you are rightly bringing the issue of chemical violence before the entire world.

You said in your speech that “with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run . . . .”

Be the Children’s Voice

Please, make that modest effort, and take that risk for children in your own country who are dying through chemical abortions. Please use your unique position as the leader of the free world to say this violence must stop against unborn children. Use your political pulpit to proclaim that chemicals must not be developed, marketed, sold, or administered for the sole purpose of killing defenseless people. It is outrageous in Syria, and it is outrageous here.

They literally have no voice, sir. You can be that voice, end the charges of hypocrisy against you, and truly take a moral high ground on this issue for the whole world to see.

Articles

Prove Your Gender

In Perspective on September 5, 2013 by The Spillover

Megan Hill:

My husband and I have a young son. And this son is not like his brothers. This son is emotional, empathetic. He likes a song and a story and a snuggle. He doesn’t much care about winning and sometimes wanders away from the backyard ball game by the second inning. He’s neither adventurous nor loud. He is still, however, a boy.

When he grows up, he’s unlikely to be the next Tim Tebow. But I’d like to think he might be the next C. S. Lewis. And I hope the Christian community will still have a place for him.

In his recent biography, C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath presents the young Lewis as a boy who wasn’t very boyish. Sent to English boarding schools from the age of 10, Lewis “does not seem to have fitted into the public school culture of the Edwardian age.” Instead of participating in the athletic competitions, Lewis listened to opera and read poetry.

And his differentness caused him trouble. “Boys who were not good at games,” McGrath writes, “were ridiculed and bullied by their peers. Athleticism devalued intellectual and artistic achievement and turned many schools into little more than training camps for the glorification of physicality. Yet the cultivation of manliness was seen as integral to the development of character.”

Boy Poet and Girl Athlete

Our world after the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act seems far from those Edwardian standards of manliness on the rugby pitch. But I am concerned that a similarly narrow standard may be gaining popularity among Christians. In standing against the gender and sexuality blur that characterizes our world today, Christians may unwittingly require our young people to prove themselves men or women. And I’m afraid the conservative Christian community may no longer have room for the young people who are different, for the boy poet or the girl athlete. That would be a great loss.

Lewis, of course, went on to become one of the most influential theologians of the modern era. In June, even The New York Times acknowledged this with a column entitled “C. S. Lewis, Evangelical Rock Star,” an epithet that surely would have startled Lewis’s childhood classmates. From an imaginative and artistic boy, Lewis grew up to accomplish great things in God’s kingdom. And there are boys and girls in our churches today who have similar potential.

The current, widespread acceptance of homosexuality complicates our position. The Christian community has to stand against the sin of homosexuality (and dozens of other sexual aberrations) with a degree of focus and energy that it has never before needed to devote to this issue. Against the backdrop of shifting cultural norms, conservative Christians must make definitive stands. The situation requires it.

But this need for definition gives rise to its own set of problems. In 2005 Anthony Esolen explained the difficulty for young people and, in particular, boys:

The prominence of male homosexuality changes the language for teenage boys. It is absurd and cruel to say that the boy can ignore it. Even if he would, his classmates will not let him. All boys need to prove that they are not failures. They need to prove that they are on the way to becoming men.

Esolen argues that a culture of homosexuality forces young people to define themselves to their peers in a conspicuous way that was unnecessary in previous generations.

That was 2005. Now, in 2013, the situation has changed somewhat. Post-DOMA, in a world where a transgender first-grader uses the girl’s bathroom, the culture at large is no longer so obviously forcing people to be either one thing or another. Gender and sexuality are fluid concepts in today’s world. They are a journey of personal choices and preferences, subject to change at a moment’s notice. As far as the world is concerned, our young people do not have to define themselves as anything.

But in the conservative Christian community, we are still holding firm. We are pushing back against the blur by proclaiming the creation pattern, the beauty and complementarity of gender differences, and the need for young people to embrace their gender responsibilities.

Such an emphasis incurs dangers for the church like those that Esolen previously attributed to society at large. By standing against gender and sexual ambiguity, we risk over-defining and forcing our young people to prove what does not need to be proven.

Nothing to Prove

And so I come back to my sensitive son, with his preference for imaginative games over competitive ones. I wonder if he will soon find himself a misfit in the Christian community, pressured to prove himself—not by his neighborhood friends, who won’t care what he is—but by other Christians, who want him to stand up for a certain kind of disappearing manliness.

In 2005, Esolen suggested that young people would find heterosexual fornication an easy option for declaring their sexual identity. We still face that danger. Sexual acts, thoughts, and desires are rightly cultivated only in a marriage (and that between a man and a woman). I don’t expect to see Christians condoning fornication. But I can imagine a quasi-righteousness being attached to childhood or teenaged expressions of attraction to someone of the opposite sex. Good, we’ll think, at least they aren’t tempted to homosexuality.

Young people also need to learn the skills necessary to fulfill their adult responsibilities. Boys are, little by little, training to be heads of households as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Girls are working toward the development of a character that will eventually take on the responsibility of “working at home. . . submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:5). Much of the current emphasis on this counter-cultural teaching is valuable.

But these skills, like any of our other holy duties, are harder for some individuals to learn than for others. It is unloving and unbiblical to assume that every Christian boy will naturally take on leadership roles or every Christian girl will immediately enjoy homemaking duties. Just as each one of us struggles to put on certain requirements of the Lord (say, patience and contentment) the personalities of some young people will make mastering their gender responsibilities hard work. We ought not to make easy facility in these tasks a test for true piety.

Finally, the Christian community should intentionally celebrate the amazingly diverse spectrum of personalities and talents that God created. Stand against sexual sin, we must. But let us not declare a certain kind of girl or a certain type of boy to be more godly than any other.

Christian young people—thinkers and feelers, musicians and rock-climbers, wrestlers and poets alike—have nothing to prove.

Articles

Let Us Note

In Perspective on September 4, 2013 by The Spillover

Via Ray Ortlund:

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

Let us note that our Lord does not name gifts or miracles or intellectual attainments as the evidence of discipleship, but love, the simple grace of love, a grace within reach of the poorest, lowliest believer, as the evidence of discipleship.  If we have no love, we have no grace, no regeneration, no true Christianity! . . .

Let us note what a heavy condemnation this verse pronounces on sectarianism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, party-spirit, strife, bitterness, needless controversy between Christian and Christian.

Let us note how far from satisfactory is the state of those who are content with sound doctrinal opinions and orthodox correct views of the Gospel, while in their daily life they give way to ill temper, ill nature, malice, envy, quarreling, squabbling, bickering, surliness, passion, snappish language, and crossness of word and manner.  Such persons, whether they know it or not, are daily proclaiming that they are not Christ’s disciples.  It is nonsense to talk about justification, and regeneration, and election, and conversion, and the uselessness of works, unless people can see in us practical Christian love.

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, on John 13:34-35.

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We Cannot Manipulate God, But We Can Trust Him

In Perspective,Soul Food on August 21, 2013 by The Spillover

J.D. Greear:

It frustrates me to no end when I hear people talk about miracles in the Bible and then say something like, “So if you want your miracle, just . . .” That sort of thinking may be enticing, but it is miles away from the gospel. Those who know the gospel know that God cannot be reduced to a formula, as if he were a high-powered vending machine. We cannot manipulate God, but we can trust him, and that is far better.

Just look at the rich woman in 2 Kings 4:8–37. After God miraculously blesses her with a son, the son suddenly dies. But the ensuing miracle is less than flattering for Elisha, God’s appointed prophet. He tries in a few different ways to raise the child from the dead, to no avail. He eventually succeeds, but not because he figured out the right pattern. He simply knew to approach a God that he knew to be merciful.

Religion is always teaching us to approach God based on formulas: “If you do this, God will do this.” It is mechanical and guaranteed. I’ve followed God’s rules, so he owes me a happy marriage (or a healthy family, or a prospering business, etc.). But that sort of “faith” is faith in a formula, not a person. Gospel faith is faith in a person—an almighty, all-knowing, infinitely caring person. When you trust a person, that can never be reduced to a mechanical formula.

It would be terrible if God operated on formulas anyway. How many times have you asked God for something that you later realized was absolutely foolish? If any of you are like me, there are probably dozens of girls that you desperately pleaded with God to make fall in love with you. We’re sinners, which means that a lot of what we ask for is garbage. What we need is not a genie in a bottle, but a loving father who sometimes overrules us.

A “no” answer to prayer is not necessarily “no answer to prayer.” Sometimes God answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for had we known what he knows. But the woman in 2 Kings 4 also shows us that trusting in God doesn’t mean we stop pursuing him for grace.

As my friend Steven Furtick says, we cannot make God move in our lives, but we can make room for him to move. The woman wasn’t sure that Elisha would raise her son from the dead. Judging by his awkward failed attempts, Elisha may not have been sure about it, either. But they both presumed upon God’s grace. That didn’t guarantee a miracle, but it put them both in the vicinity.

Don’t mistake me: there is nothing we can do to force God to move in our lives. As Jesus said, the movement of God’s Spirit is mysterious, like the wind. We cannot tell where it comes from or when it is coming. (As soon as someone says they have it figured out, you can be sure they’ve missed it!) But by pressing in to the grace of God, we put our sail up so that when his Spirit blows, we can catch it.

I sometimes think that so few of our people see God work powerfully in their lives simply because they’ve never put their sail up. They’ve never taken the risk of giving any money to the church. They’ve never considered how to repurpose their business for the gospel. They’ve never walked across the room to talk to their coworker. Why not take that risk today? If God is a loving Father—which he is—then you have nothing to lose. Quit trying to manipulate God into acting how you think he should; start trusting him to act how he knows is best.

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Science, Too, Calls for a Leap of Faith

In Perspective on August 16, 2013 by The Spillover

Trevin Wax for The New York Times:

Christian leaders are sometimes accused of dismissing doubters and skeptics, those who question the reliability of Christian teaching. Based on the swift condemnations of Virginia Heffernan’s article, “Why I Am a Creationist,” it appears that such Christians are not the only ones who take offense at skepticism. In challenging a purely naturalistic explanation of the world’s origins, Heffernan ran afoul of people unwilling to entertain even a crack in their naturalistic system.

Interestingly enough, Heffernan did not take a position on how the world was created; she merely expressed her belief that the world was, indeed, created. This educated, rational human, like many others before her, claimed that it makes as much sense to believe in a creator as it does to believe the world came into existence out of nothing. For this, she was ridiculed.

Yet science neither proves nor disproves the existence of a creator. Evidence leads us only to a point, and then we draw conclusions. People like Heffernan look at the elements of our world that appear to be designed and purposeful, and conclude that a mind is supervising the matter.

Furthermore, as her article pointed out, even those who take the naturalistic point of view tend to live as if the creation story is true. We do not see our lives as meaningless, but purposeful. We live according to values and morals; we teach our children right from wrong. When we care for ailing parents or welcome children with birth defects, we are living against the “survival of the fittest” principle of natural selection. A purely naturalistic explanation of the world’s origins does not explain the way we live. Religious stories do.

The real issue here is not merely creation or the lack thereof; it’s about the source of truth. Those who condemned Heffernan believe science is the only reliable way to discover truth. But this belief in science collapses on itself: there is no scientific evidence to prove that science is the only reliable way to discover truth. Once we take unproven hypotheses and dogmatize them, we have moved beyond scientific evidence into philosophical reflection on truth and the scientific method. Naturalist or not, when it comes to the world’s origins, we are all in the realm of faith.

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