29 January 2016

This 'n' That

photo: Squad Car @ The Bridge via photopin (license)
I found myself driving first behind, and then in front of, a police officer most of the way home last night. On a road full of commuters anxious to get home, there was this dear policeman, driving at least 5 mph slower than the speed limit. And you know how it is when there is a policeman on the road: everyone slows down. Way, way down. Way, way, way down.

So yes, it was mildly annoying, though I do say that with the utmost respect for police officers. I am very, very thankful for them, so I mean no disrespect at all. But—and I'm certain I'm not alone in this—it seems to me that there may be times when some officers deliberately slow down (way, way down) in traffic, just to watch the rest of us squirm. I can't blame them, because it is somewhat entertaining to watch people slam on their brakes when they realize they've bumped 1 or 2 mph over the posted speed limit. But do they have to play the game at 6:00 at night?

Still, it started me thinking: most of us don't consider speeding to be a sin, though in reality, it is a violation of the law. It therefore must be counted among the many sins we commit daily, even as we strive for holiness. We know we are to obey the speed limit and yet many of us do not...unless someone of interest is watching. Then we slow down. Way, way down.

Beloved, how do you treat your "minor" sins? Or even your "major" ones? Do you think that, so long as they are done in secret, out of sight of your spouse or children or pastor or church friends, that they do not count? Do you not realize that God sees what is done in secret, whether sinful or righteous (Matt 6:4, 6, 18)?

Or do you suppose if you only think the sinful thought in your mind, that it does not count? God knows each thought. Do you not realize that God knows what is in your heart (1 Sam 16:7; Jer 17:10; Prov 15:11)?

Shame on us if we only act righteously when we think we are being watched. May God grant us the strength and desire to grow in holiness and to pursue righteousness at all times and in all situations.

Okay, before you go off to repent of your speeding sins (because that could take awhile), why not slow down (way, way down) to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

26 January 2016

Selfie Righteousness

Christians truly are a unique bunch. We are in the world, but not of it. We strive to serve our Lord Jesus Christ well in the midst of a world that is hostile to Him and to His message. We know we have been called out of this world because, in reality, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.

And yet, we do not hide our faith. We do not silence our message. We desire that the world know we are Christians so that it may hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ alone. So at times we must utilize the tools of the world in order to aid us in our mission. And this is okay, so long as the execution of the task does not subsequently result in sin or tarnish the name of Christ.

photo: facebook website screenshot
photopin (license)
There are several problems that tend to arise, however, in the Christian's endeavor to accomplish this task. The primary of these is that, even as Christians, we are still sinners, and we are thus prone to the same pride and idolatry that enslave the world. Of course, we seek to mortify these sins each time they rise up to tempt us, but we nevertheless are bound to fail on occasion. And when we do succumb to the narcissism that defines the world, we ultimately bring shame upon our own Christian witness, we cast doubt upon the Church, and above all, we undermine the name of Christ.

This is most evident in the professing Christian's use of social media. Now, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Vimeo, etc., can actually be marvelous tools for the Kingdom (though it seems dubious to include Instagram and Pinterest among these helpful tools), and many people have successfully endeavored to use them for that purpose. Obviously this writer has no objection to the use of these, else this blog would not exist. But, as in all things, we must be wise in where and how we walk, even digitally.

There appears to be a growing tendency among professing Christians to ignorantly utilize social media for the celebration of oneself. In our attempts to appear spiritual and humble, we ultimately end up exclaiming, "Hey! Look at me! Look at how amazing I am! Look at how much more spiritual I am than you! Look at how much cuter my children are than yours; I must be more blessed! Look at how much more precious my 'quiet time' is!"

Stop it. Please, can we just stop it? Can we please stop using social media to thinly veil our self-love and conceit in threadbare spiritual language? Can we please stop using Christ to ultimately draw attention to ourselves? This is narcissism at its finest and, Christian, if you love the Lord, you must examine your social media self and your motivation.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to share a photo of your family or the sunset on Facebook. The problem arises when we use these mediums to exalt ourselves, but do so under the guise of our faith. What are some ways we are guilty of exploiting our faith in order to draw attention to ourselves?

22 January 2016

This 'n' That

photo credit: If You Have A Bee In Your Hand
photopin (license) 
So, I just found out that Facebook has some 50+ gender options to choose from when  you create your profile. Really? Really. I'm sure some of you have known that for awhile. Me? I suppose I've been blissfully ignorant. Now that I know, I do not understand.
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Get 1:27; emphasis mine)
As far as I can tell, the text does not say, "male and female and bigender and cisgender and gender fluid He created them." Nope, it just says male and female. Funny how that works.

You know what this means, don't you? It means any other "gender" is a figment of fallen man's imagination. Oh well, Romans 1, anyone? This is to be expected in the society in which we live, and it ought to make us that much more grateful that God chose to save us and set us apart from this sinful, wicked world. So don't get discouraged, dear Christian, and don't be rocked with surprise when liberal-thinkers, even those who proclaim the name of Christ, join this sinful bandwagon. Simply pray, praise, and give thanks. Our God is sovereign. We serve the King of kings who will one day make all things new.

So while you wait for that glorious day, why not take a few moments at the start of your weekend to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

21 January 2016

The Converted Man

[T]he converted man has a new end in his thoughts, and a new way in his endeavors, and therefore his heart and life are new. Before, his carnal self was his end; and his pleasure and worldly profits, and credit were his way; and now God and everlasting glory are his end; and Christ, and the Spirit, and Word, and ordinances, holiness to God, and righteousness, and mercy to men, these are his way. Before, self was the chief ruler; to which the matters of God and conscience must stoop and give place. And now God in Christ, by the Spirit, Word, and ministry, is that chief ruler, to whom both self and all the matters of self must give place. So that this is not a change in one, or two, or twenty points, but in the whole soul, and in the very end and bent of the conversation. A man may step out of one path into another, and yet have his face the same way, and be still going towards the same place. But it is another matter to turn quite back again, and take his journey the contrary way, to a contrary place. So it is here: a man may turn from drunkenness to thriftiness, and forsake his good fellowship, and other gross disgraceful sins, and set upon some duties of religion, and yet be still going to the same end as before, intending his carnal self above all, and giving it still the government of his soul. But, when he is converted, this self is denied and taken down, and God is set up, and his face is turned the contrary way; and he that before was addicted to himself, and lived to himself, is now by sanctification devoted to God, and lives unto God.

— Richard Baxter, A Call to the Unconverted

Further Reading
Actively Seeking Holiness
So You Call Yourself a Christian
The Cross and the World

16 January 2016

Equipping Eve: You Make the Choice, God Makes the Change? (Part 1)

Ah, the church sign. Who would have thought it was possible to cram so much bad theology into such a small space! One church sign recently caught my eye and read, "You make the choice, God makes the change!" Is this what the Bible says about conversion?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Click here for a list of resources used in this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources
Equipping Eve: Thou Changest Not
Equipping Eve: What Happens at Small Group
Equipping Eve: Simeon's Psalm

15 January 2016

This 'n' That

Warning: I am feeling a little snarky today. I know, some of you who know me well are thinking, "So...what else is new?" Very funny.

I think it may be because today is Friday and, not too long ago, I found and purchased this book (don't worry, it was cheap. Very cheap). Now every day is a Friday! That's right, Joel Osteen has changed my outlook on life. I mean, how can you not change your attitude and perspective when you're reading tidbits like this:
If you will let go of the hurts and pains and get on God's payroll, God will settle your case. He will make your wrongs right. He will bring justice into your life. You will get what you deserve, and God will pay you back with double the joy, double the peace, double the favor, and double the victory. (Joel Osteen, Daily Readings from Every Day a Friday: 90 Devotions to be Happier 7 Days a Week, New York: Faith Words, 2012, p. 112)
So let me get this straight: God is both my employer and my lawyer? Or are we mixing metaphors? Also, if I am going to get what I deserve, I am in trouble because I, like every other person, am a sinner who is wholly deserving of God's eternal wrath and condemnation.

Do you see now why I'm feeling a little snarky? Drivel like this makes me a bit agitated. Oh well, it truly is Friday, after all, so why not push all these nonsensical Osteen-isms out of your mind and instead enjoy your week in review (kind of):

08 January 2016

This 'n' That

So, I've started a new annual practice: changing the batteries in the smoke alarms. Apparently this is supposed to be done every 6 months or so. At least that's what I'm told. All I know is I once lived in a condo for about 5 years before the smoke alarm started beeping its low-battery warning, so I'm not entirely convinced of this 6 month figure. I mean, if the smoke alarms aren't actually going off, then the battery use is minimal, right? Ergo, only a yearly check and/or replacement of them is required. How's that for logic?

I discovered two things while carrying the step ladder from room to room: 1. there are too many smoke alarms in my house, and 2. whoever designed smoke alarms clearly must have failed basic geometry. Now, trust me, I am a fan of smoke alarms in general. But think through this with me: most smoke alarms require 9 volt batteries. These batteries are a rectangular shape, and yet, for some mysterious reason unknown to the general public, smoke alarms are circular. Now, this does not have to be problematic in and of itself except that the designer of the smoke alarm apparently decided that a rectangular battery should be able to fit into a crescent-shaped tray. Hm. Interesting. If I were a young child, and you gave me one of those toys where you match a specifically shaped block to its corresponding, identically-shaped hole, and I tried to shove a rectangular block into a crescent-shaped hole, you'd probably be a little worried. And yet, I have a hunch that whoever designed these circular smoke alarms is probably quite wealthy.

The moral of the story? Changing the batteries in your smoke alarms might be one of those everyday tasks that God uses to sanctify us, because it requires a lot more patience than is probably necessary for such a simple endeavor.

With that, I know some of you may be itching to get out your step ladder and change a few batteries of your own. If so, that's fantastic, but before you do, take a few minutes to first enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Some people are in a tizzy over Marco Rubio's selection of Rick Warren and Wayne Grudem as members of his spiritual advisory team. If I cared, I'd be more worried about the inclusion of Samuel Rodriguez, who is a fairly significant name in the New Apostolic Reformation movement. 
  • This concept is strange and a little unnerving, but I'm happy these kitties now have homes.
  • I don't actually like Nutella, but I find it kind of amazing that there's a whole festival dedicated to the spread.
  • Here's your weekly dose of adorable (ignore the leash).
  • I'm glad Wheaton College has taken these steps, but it will be interesting to see what the final outcome is. 
  • Please listen to this two-part series on evangelism from Pastor Don Green. Here's Part 1 and Part 2.
  • I've enjoyed this series of No Compromise Radio episodes teaching about the rainbow. Pastor Mike starts with a general discussion of symbols and then moves into more detail about the significance of the rainbow. Don't miss Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.
  • Good thoughts  from Aimee Byrd on complementarianism, the Passion conference, and the role of women.
  • Good thoughts from Lyndon Unger on reporting with integrity.
  • And good thoughts from Tom Chantry on John Piper's discernment.
  • As if the airports in Chicago weren't already scary enough.
  • Ten reminders for preachers that will also benefit the rest of us.
  • I absolutely love this, and I resonate with everything that is said in this article.
  • Steve Lawson on Jonathan Edwards:

01 January 2016

This 'n' That

Photo: Freeimages.com/AngelNorris
It is inevitable. Every year at this time we are bombarded with emails, blog posts, and radio and/or television appeals from so-called Christian ministries begging for money. It seemed extra intense this year, as some ministries sent out emails throughout the day on December 31, reminding that time was running out to offer them support and still make a tax-deductible donation for 2015.

"Your gift is important." "Your gift will help sustain us through this next year." "December is the most crucial time of the year for our ministry financially." I especially love when ministries make this appeal both in December and in June, when their fiscal year actually ends.

I lost count of how many ministries practically declared that the sky would start falling if I didn't write them a check before midnight on December 31. And then there are those ministries that take the added approach of boasting about how much money they spend to give you (paid and/or free) access to their resources. I mean, have you no heart? They've spent 500,000 million trillion dollars this year! Can't you send them 20 bucks?

It is amusing, but it is also profoundly sad and exceedingly annoying. I understand that ministries need money to operate, and I don't begrudge them reminding us, discreetly and without pressure, now and then. But this thing that looks like Christian begging needs to stop. If you have to beg, you are doing it wrong.

With that, if you have any money left after being mugged by your favorite ministries, feel free to send it on over to DNBS. We will use it to fight this battle against annoying ministry begging. No, really, we will. I *promise. We will even give you a weekly free gift for your donation of any amount. That's right, when you donate to DNBS, you will be able to spend every Friday in 2016 enjoying your week in review (kind of):