The Weekly Roundup

Here are some links for your viewing pleasure:

Grace Is Not Earned – Bob Kauflin gives away some free music from artist Kate Simmonds.

Cautions for Mere Christianity – I’m a big C.S. Lewis fan. Kevin DeYoung offers some wise cautions in regards to Lewis’ book Mere Christianity.

Discover New Music With “MySpoonful” – I love finding new music, and the website MySpoonful seems like a pretty cool way to find music.

The World’s Muslim Population Doubles – This article from Time is a sobering reminder that the world’s population could be up to 25% Muslim by 2030. Let’s pray for God’s kingdom to come.

Aiming High, Missing Low, Aiming High Again – Tony Reinke mines the wisdom of John Newton discussing our failures as Christians.

Man Passes Out On Jeopardy – This is just plain funny.

Making Sense of King David’s Polygamy

King David seems like a mystery at times.

At least to me he does. On the one hand, he is a man after God’s own heart. He was the “Lord is my shepherd” guy. God was so pleased with David that he made an everlasting covenant with him, promising him that one of his descendants would be on the throne forever. Spiritually speaking, David had everything going for him.

On the other hand, David had some pretty nasty flaws. He seduced Bathsheba and murdered Uriah. He would have killed Nabal if Nabal’s wife, Abigail hadn’t stepped in. Then, after Nabal died David decided to marry Abigail. Which seems like a happy ending until you remember that David already had a wife. By the end of his life David actually had several wives.

So what’s the deal? Why did God allow David to have multiple wives? Why didn’t God punish David for his polygamy? Did God approve of David’s polygamy? These kind of questions can make the Old Testament seem really confusing.

In his book, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Paul Copan makes a very helpful point in this regard. He says:

…the Biblical authors often don’t comment on such actions [such as polygamy] because (at least in part) they assume that they don’t need to. In other words, is doesn’t mean ought; the way biblical characters happen to act isn’t necessarily an endorsement of their behavior.

In other words, just because it is in the Bible doesn’t mean that it’s good. In Genesis 1-2 we see God’s ideal: a marriage between one man and one woman. In Deuteronomy 17:17, God says to the future kings of Israel: “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” God never intended a king, or anyone else for that matter, to have multiple wives.

The reality, however, is that God patiently works with sinful men and women who live in a sinful world. God stoops to our level and works with us in spite of our flaws. David was king during a time when there would have been pressure to make marriage for political reasons. Did God approve of this? No, but he worked within the framework of David’s world and he extended grace to David.

On a side note, it is interesting to note that every time multiple marriages happen in scripture, strife occurred. God didn’t necessarily punish polygamy, but he didn’t bless it either. God’s grace works in mysterious ways.

I’m grateful we serve a God of grace. I’m sure that hundreds of years from now people will look back on the church and see many obvious flaws and much obvious fruit. Because God is gracious, and he meets us where we are.

How to Become Correction Free

Don?t you hate to be corrected?

Don?t you hate it when someone says, ?Do you mind if I share an observation for you?? ?Don?t you just want to reply, ?YES, I DO mind. ?Now please go back to Observationville and I?ll call you when start to run low on observations.?

One of the worst things about being corrected is the way your face feels. You want to smile and look ?receptive,? open and humble, yet your face essentially feels like it?s made out of Plaster of Paris and is about to crack into a thousand pieces. ?On the outside your face says, ?Yes, I can see what you?re saying. ?Hmmm. ?No, I didn?t realize that every time I open my mouth you feel like I?m tazering you. ?Thank you so much for sharing this with me.? ?But inside you are saying to yourself, ?Don?t cry. ?Don?t cry. ?Don?t cry.?

So here are some suggestions for how to receive correction.

First, take a lesson from the CIA, whose motto is ?Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.? The minute someone begins to correct you, even before they?ve finished their first sentence, launch your offensive: ?Why are you always attacking me and tearing me down? ?Why can?t you support me for once? ?Aren?t there enough dogs in the street that you have to start kicking me?? ?Do this at least 23 decibels louder than you normally speak.

This should take your would-be ?observer? off guard. ?They may be speechless for a moment, which will give you the opportunity to launch your second fusillade: the guilt trip. ??After all I?ve done for you, this is the thanks I get? ?Whatever happened to encouragement? ?You know the last time you encouraged me? ?In the Truman administration! ?Why do I even bother trying to do anything nice for anyone if this is what?s going to happen to me??

Now they may gently point out they haven?t actually even said anything to you yet. ?Don?t be put off by this. ?Launch stage 3: Play the ‘Woe is me’ card. ??I?m sorry for snapping like that. ?It?s just that I?ve been under so much stress lately. ?My pet lizard, ?Lucky,? ?died last week and all the crickets I?d fed him got out of his cage and my whole house became infested and the city came and condemned it. ?They accused me of being a hoarder, just because I like to collect things. ?On top of that, I had to get rid of my 32 cats. ?It?s just been terrible. ?I don?t think I can take any more.?

If your observer hasn’t left yet, launch stage 4: The downcast listener. ??Ok, give me your observation. ?I need to be teachable. Tell me how bad I am. ?Tell me what a loser I am. ?I need to hear it. ?It?s good for me. ?Just let me grab some kleenex first.? ?Then look at them with sad watery eyes. Sniff and wipe your nose.

If at this point, they still have gumption to actually give you an observation, repeat tactic 1:? ?Oh, right – I?M insensitive. Well what about last Sunday when you snubbed me at the coffee bar? ?What? You didn?t see me because of how crowded it was? Talk about insensitive! ?If you didn?t see me, why weren?t you concerned? ?Oh right. ?You were reaching out to a guest. ?Well, I guess I just have to try to be more sensitive to YOU, Mr. Outreach.?

Get the idea? ?It?s not that hard. ?Put these simple techniques into practice and soon you?ll be correction free like I am.

photo by roberthuffstutter

God Can Work With A Spark

A little grace, a spark of true love to God, a grain of living faith, though small as mustard-seed, is worth a thousand worlds. –Newton

The tiniest signs of true grace in others and ourselves should greatly encourage us. ?The faintests whisps of smoke from a flickering flame are cause for us to hope for a blaze to come.

God begins his work in our lives by planting the seed of the gospel, joining it to faith the size of a mustard seed. ?The seed puts forth a slender, fragile stalk, barely discernible above the soil. ?Little by little, day by day, the stalk begins to bud and put forth tiny trembling leaves. ?Sometimes it looks like nothing is happening. ?We may wonder if our little sapling is going to make it. ?But gradually it grows until in time it becomes a mighty tree.

We need to be patient with all, but especially new believers. Sometimes they grow by fits and starts. ?One day they?re bubbling with joy; the next, slogging about in the slough of despair. ?One day they?re surveying the battlefield like conquering Bravehearts; the next day they?re languishing in a pit of condemnation.

Maybe this is you. ?You sincerely called on Jesus, and you?re trying to follow him, but keep falling. You feel like it?s two steps forward, three back. ?Don?t despair. ?Don?t quit. ?If there’s one spark of the life of Jesus in you, one grain of true love to Jesus in your heart, he will complete the good work he?s begun in you. ?In five years you won?t believe what he?s done for you.

Maybe you?re praying for your son or daughter. ?If there are any signs of genuine life in them, keep praying. ?Keep looking for more. ?If they desire to follow Christ, keep encouraging them, even if they keep failing.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to meet once a week and read through the gospel of Matthew with a grad student from China. ?He wasn?t born again. ?His background was Buddhist, so almost every sentence took explaining. ?Part of his motivation was to learn English, but it seemed there was a glimmer of genuine interest in Christianity.

I?ll take a glimmer.? God can work with a spark. Where there?s a faint glow of true interest in Christ there?s hope. ?So don?t despise the day of small beginnings, in yourself, your children, or any believer.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench… (Isaiah 42:3)

photo by Mubina H

Do We Choose God Or Does God Choose Us?

So which is it? Did I choose God or did He choose me?

It’s a sticky question – one that has divided people for centuries. If God chose me, does that mean that I don’t have any free will? Does that mean that my choices aren’t really choices at all? Does that mean that I’m nothing more than a puppet on a divine string?

On the other hand, if I chose God, does that mean that God isn’t really sovereign? Does that mean that salvation is the one area that falls outside of God’s total, sovereign control?

It’s tricky. So what does the Bible say? Surely the Bible makes one or the other clear.

Well, sort of. Scripture makes it clear that God chooses us for salvation. And scripture makes it clear that we choose God. It’s not either or, it’s both. John 1:12-13 is a perfect example of this.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Who received the right to become children of God? It was those who believed in Jesus. Those who made a real choice to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This isn’t a trick verse. Those who believed in Jesus made a real choice to really believe in Jesus as the Son of God. So yes, we choose God. No doubt about it.

But something else is going on here. Those who believed in Jesus were born again. How? Not of blood, meaning not of any sort of natural birth. They also weren’t born again by the will of the flesh or the will of man. I understand this to mean that they weren’t born again because of anything they did. They absolutely could not cause themselves to be born again. Being born again is something that God and only God does.

Now, here’s the crucial question: did they choose God and then were born again, or were they born again and then chose God? Acts 16:14 is very helpful in answering this question. Speaking of Lydia, it says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” In other words, God made her spiritually dead heart come alive so that she could hear and respond to the gospel message. Another helpful verse is John 6:65, where Jesus says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

So do we choose God? Absolutely. We make a real to choice to repent of our sins and choose to follow God. But, scripture is also clear that God chooses us before we choose him. The Bible doesn’t try to reconcile these two truths, but instead presents them side by side.

Why It’s Good To Wait For God

God tells us it is good for us to wait for him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:25-26)

Here are a few things God does for us when we wait for him:

  • He humbles us

Waiting helps us realize that we are dependent creatures. ?We?re not the captain of our souls or in charge of our own destiny. ?We?re not self-sufficient, but we live by every mercy dispensed from God?s hand.

  • He teaches us to seek him

Waiting on God is not passive. ?As we wait, we seek. ?We pray, we beseech God. ?We cry out ?How long, O Lord?? ?We ask, and knock and submit our requests to God. ?If we got what we wanted right away, we wouldn?t draw near to God and we?d miss out on the joy of his presence.

  • He teaches us to trust him

While we?re waiting for God to save our child or meet our needs we stretch our faith to the limit. ?We trust, though all our circumstances tell us to despair. ?As we wait, our trust grows.

  • He builds patience and perseverance into us

The only way to get patience is to have to wait for something. ?Perseverance only comes through enduring trials, failures and persecution.

  • He reveals what is in our hearts

What comes out of your heart when you don?t get what you want? ?Grumbling? ?Hard thoughts of God? ?Or praise and trust? ?When you can wait with a quiet heart, you know God has done a work in you.

  • He helps us to treasure him above the things we are waiting for

He teaches us to find our contentment in him. ?He is our portion, not anything in this world. ?Only Jesus can truly satisfy us. ?No person or thing that we wait for can satisfy us like Christ.

  • He makes mercy sweeter when it finally arrives

We appreciate blessings more when we’ve prayed and trusted and waited for them.? We appreciate health more after sickness.? And how much more will we enjoy our eternal weight of glory after our temporary, light afflictions.

photo by CmdrFire

When the Praying Gets Tough, the Tough Get Praying

I get worn out pretty easily when it comes to prayer. When I first start praying for something, I’m all business. I’m fervent and passionate and totally in faith. I’m going to take heaven by storm. Nothing can stop me from getting what I want. I know that God can and will give me what I ask for.

But as time goes by and my prayer goes unanswered, my faith starts to wane and my passion begins to subside. I don’t pray as frequently or as zealously. I used to pray for this thing every single day, but now I only pray for it once a week. Then once a month. Then just every so often.

Why does this happen to me? Why do I peter out so quickly in prayer?

I think there are a number of reasons. I lack the discipline to keep praying for a long period of time. I also lack the necessary faith. When I don’t see God move quickly, I assume that he won’t move at all, which is a big mistake.

In Luke 11:9-10, Jesus speaks against the lethargy that so quickly overtakes me. He says:

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Do you notice how Jesus uses words that increase in intensity? He starts with asking, which is a simple, relatively passive action. Just ask. Then he moves to seeking, which involves actively looking for something. Finally, he mentions knocking, which involves beating your hand on a door again and again until it is opened.

Over time our prayers tend to decrease in intensity. Jesus tells us that as time passes, our prayers should actually increase in intensity. The longer that God delays, the harder we should pray. We shouldn’t automatically assume that a delayed answer means no answer at all.

We don’t usually know why God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. What we do know is that he is good, wise, and faithful, and that he loves to give us good things. So keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Don’t let time and laziness take the edge off your prayers. As time passes, pray with even more passion and intensity.

When the praying gets tough, get praying.

Pray Expectantly

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5.13-16)

Have you ever thought about the fact that James doesn?t qualify these statements?

When he says, ?the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up,? he doesn?t add, ?but sometimes people die.?? When he says ?pray for one another, that you may be healed,? he doesn’t add “but it might not always be God?s will.”

Daniel Doriani points out that James encourages us to pray with expectancy:

?Either the sick person or a close friend should expectantly call the elders. ?And the elders themselves should trust in God?s goodness and power. ?God will not heed a gathering of skeptics, who spin out a dead ritual.?

I was arrested by that word ?EXPECTANTLY.”? The sick person or a close friend should EXPECTANTLY call the elders. ?And the elders too should have expectant faith – they ?themselves should trust in God?s goodness and power.?? So often, when I pray for others, I have little or no expectation that anything will happen.

James doesn?t qualify his statements because his emphasis is on faith. He wants us to trust in our God of awesome power.? James knows that not everyone is always healed.? James knows that eventually everyone will die.? God didn?t heal Timothy – he had frequent stomach ailments (1 TI 5.23). Paul left Trophimus ill at Miletus (2 Ti 4.20).? God didn’t deliver Paul from his thorn in the flesh.? Yet James also knows that many times God DOES heal, and raises people up from their sickbeds.? When we pray, we should try to focus on God’s goodness, power and compassion, and not be dismayed because he doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we’d like him to.

So keep praying with expectant faith. Keep asking him to bless, and even heal, unless God makes it perfectly clear that’s not his will. God would not give us means to receive blessing (e.g. prayer) if there were no blessing to receive.

photo by michiev

My Head Will Hurt Forever

Note: My daughter Beth wrote this and I asked her if I could post it.

I?ve been getting headaches since I was 13, and migraines since I was 14. ?I?m 23.

Since the first day they appeared, year after year, they got worse and worse. ?My parents took me to numerous doctors, first locally, then in Pittsburgh, then in other cities in other states. ?I tried all kinds of medicine and therapies, including acupuncture. ?I took more vitamins and supplements than I can remember, tried diets, and read every migraine article I was given. ?I was tested for food allergies. ?I exercised, I didn?t exercise. ?I drank caffeine, I didn?t drink caffeine. ?I made many trips to the ER and endured a horrific week in a Philadelphia headache ward in attempt to ease the pain.

Still they came, sometimes constantly for weeks.

I dropped out of college, unable to keep up. ?I?ve missed church services and events and spent many nights alone, unable to hang out with friends.

For 10 years I?ve repeatedly asked Jesus to heal me. ?My family?s prayed. ?My friends have prayed. Even people I don?t know have prayed for me. ?I?ve gone forward for prayer in church many times and been anointed with oil more than once by pastors.

Often I?ve quit asking, thinking what?s the point – it?s been so long and nothing?s happened. ?Doctors haven?t helped. ?Prayers haven?t worked. ?It?s always going to be this way.

At times I?ve resigned myself to a life of migraines thinking I was being content with what God had given me. ?But I wasn?t viewing him rightly. ?I wasn?t believing that he could or would work in my life.

James 5:13-15 says ?Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. ?Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. ?And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.?

James puts it so simply – ?Let him pray.?

And we?re to pray expectantly, knowing God is a generous Father. ?Psalm 84:11 says ?For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.?? I know I need to trust that the Lord knows what is the very best for me.

I know God has used this trial for my good. ?I?ve grown so much closer to him and am so grateful for all he?s done in my life through it. ?So instead of giving up, I?m going to keep asking in faith that he will heal me. ?Whether I see an answer here or when I meet him face to face, I serve a wonderful God.

?As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number?
Job 5:8-9

Photo by Beth

A Bold New Look For Preachers

Dave Wilson, on his blog, Faces of Lions recently paid tribute to Paul David Tripp.? He says:

Tripp has the greatest mustache in contemporary Christendom. Am I right? To my knowledge, no pastor, teacher or author comes close to his epic cookie-duster.

I racked my brain but couldn?t think of others. Now that I think of it, the mustache seems to have fallen out of vogue with those in the ministry. Any idea why that is?

Here?s a photo of Paul David Tripp. ?I almost have to say, ?What is that thing on his lip?? but Dave Wilson assures us it’s a mustache.

Dave, I think there aren?t more pastoral staches because guys just can?t picture themselves with them. So here?s where I come in. ?My art degree is not for nothing, for now I will help some well-known guys see how truly great they?d look with mustaches, and thus I will single-handedly bring the stache back into pastoral vogue.

First, here?s CJ Mahaney as he is now, without a mustache. ?Handsome, cheerful countenance, but not exciting.

Now here he is with a new dashing Snidely Whiplash mustache. ?He can either play the role of a villain who ties ladies to railroad tracks, or an Italian accordian player. ?Now, instead of replying, ?Better than I deserve,? he?ll answer the question how are you doing with, ?Nyah-ah-ah!? or ?When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amore!?

Here?s RC Sproul. ?Great looking friendly guy who loves the Picksburg Stillers. ?But he doesn?t project an image of authority.

So here he is with a Wyatt Earp mustache. ?Now his look says, ?Get these dead bad guys the heck out of here!?

Here?s Mark Driscoll. ?Cool, hip. ?But he?s not going to reach old people.

Here?s Mark with Mutton Chops. ?This look says, I?m hip yet I care about all you Civil War veterans. ?You?re welcome to bring your muzzle loader to church. ?We love all kinds here.

Back to Paul David Tripp. ?And the question that comes to mind is what is he trying to hide beneath that broom?

Here?s my theory. ?He must have very small, rosebud-like lips that he?s trying to cover. ?Take away the stache and who?s going to want to hear this guy talk about child training? ?He looks too young.

Paul, better keep the stache.

So who’s your favorite?? What’s your theory on what Paul is hiding?