The Lord be with you and bless you today.
There are some nice new Kindle deals to look at today.
“It was the most significant spiritual moment of our marriage. And it happened 22 years after we said, ‘I do.’” Melissa explains what it was all about.
“Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think we can all agree that this time of year can bring out the best and the worst, not just in our culture around us, but even within ourselves and our families.” Here’s some counsel on keeping the right perspective through the season.
This is good stuff from Trevin Wax. “Those of us who mourn the complicity of the church in manifest evil must differentiate between a kind of deconstruction that tears down a building and celebrates the rubble and the kind that strips away the moldy walls and floors until we find again the foundational truths that are common to Christians everywhere and through time.”
“The Planned Parenthood employee thought she had me with her question: ‘How many unwanted children have you adopted?’ ‘None,’ I replied. She probably thought, Checkmate, I got him. The pro-life view results in more babies being born. So it follows, according to this lady’s thinking, that if I don’t adopt any of them, I’m disqualified from arguing against abortion. Though this question is rhetorically powerful, it’s not a compelling case against pro-lifers.”
Daniel puts out the call to the real local church pastors. “It seems with every passing season another high-profile pastor falls from their ministry position. Sadly, I’ve come to expect it. I should probably grieve more. I should certainly pray more. Nonetheless, I don’t believe hell loses ground by simply adding more popular or hip leaders to the church. What the church really needs are servants who tremble at God’s word. We need shepherds who value others above themselves and live for the renown of Jesus, not their own platforms.”
This is a wonderful tribute to a man who sounds like a wonderful grandfather.
We celebrate Christmas best when we celebrate it not because we have to, but because we freely choose to…Once we acknowledge there is no special command to be obeyed or grace to be earned, then we can celebrate in true gospel freedom.
No mother’s nightmarish valley is so dark that Jesus cannot bear her burdens the whole way through. —Gloria Furman
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By Tim Challies — 4 months ago
Grace and peace to you today, my friends.
Today’s Kindle deals include some pretty good titles.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Snows, The Deep Snows, the Awful Snows)
Looking for Wisdom Among the ‘Christian’ Gurus
“Dave Ramsey, Jordan Peterson, and Rachel Hollis are, each in their own way, three of our modern gurus. They’re a diverse group that reflects particular personalities of modern culture. Peterson is the philosophical academic, Hollis the Instagram celebrity, and Ramsey the folksy, financial counseling version of Dr. Phil.” That’s an interesting start to an article…
Seeing Dignity Instead of Misery Among the Poor
“I used to assume that life must be joyless for those without all the material comforts that were commonplace to me. When I considered people who had only the clothes on their backs and just enough food for each day, my first and strongest reaction was pity. I felt it often in our early years in Zambia, and that revealed a lot to me about my true priorities. When we equate poverty with misery, our core values are exposed.”
You Preach to Ordinary People
“It is good to remember that your church is not a unique collection of hyper-spiritual elite super saints. Nor is it the strangest and most bizarre collection of people either. You preach to ordinary people.” Here are a few things to remember about ordinary people like you and me.
The Invitation Underneath Unforgiveness
“Children of God are fully forgiven the moment they surrender and receive the atoning work of Christ packaged in the gospel; however, it takes a lifetime both to comprehend such fathomless forgiveness and to become those who forgive like the Father.”
No wrong roads
Here’s the latest column from Janie Cheaney. “Every individual life is a creative, collaborative work between the one who lives it and the One who gives it. In that sense, it doesn’t matter where the path leads or what ground it covers or whether we travel at night or full daylight. What matters is His steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Shepherds of Assurance
Pastors especially may benefit from this article.
Flashback: 7 Rules for Online Engagement
As we learn to engage controversy…we do well to consider how to we can speak with equal parts truth and love—love that is strengthened by truth and truth that is softened by love.
Oh, prodigal, you may be wandering on the dark mountains of sin, but God wants you to come home. —D.L. Moody
By Tim Challies — 5 months ago
You know as well as I do that you are a finite being. Yet you know as well as I do that at times you fight against your finitude, you battle against your inevitable limits and boundaries as if they are a problem to be overcome or even a sin to be repented of. Yet what if your limits are not a bug but a feature of your humanity? What if these limitations are God’s gift and, therefore, good and worthy of embrace? These are the kinds of questions Kelly Kapic wants you to consider through his new book You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.
There are times in life when we all run into the reality of our finitude. Whether it’s through weakness or illness, whether it’s through loss or failure, whether it’s through seeing that others are smarter than we are or that others are more capable than we are, we must all at some point face our limitations. We can’t know it all, we can’t do it all, we can’t be it all. Yet “the odd thing is that, even when we run into our inevitable limits, we often hang on to the delusion that if we just work harder, if we simply squeeze tighter, if we become more efficient, we can eventually regain control.” Peace comes only when we embrace finitude as an unavoidable part of being creatures rather than the Creator. This is how we were designed and there is nothing we can do to change it. There’s nothing we should do to even attempt to change it.
There is something deep in the heart of humanity that prompts us to rebel against our finitude, against the reality that we are dependent creatures who cannot exist for a day, or even a moment, apart from God. The very first sin was a rebellion against limits God had imposed on humanity and in some way that was the prototype for every sin that has followed. But what if we were to see that dependency upon God is a gift, not a deficiency? What if we were to go farther and actually embrace our limits and thank God for them, then live at peace with all the things we cannot do and cannot be?
In this book, Kapic says he wants “us to take time to carefully think about our creatureliness. This will reveal limits, dependence, love, reliance on the grace of God, and worship. We will examine the joy of being a creature and the freedom of resting on the promises of the Creator. We will question harmful and unrealistic ideals and begin to appreciate the messiness of our complex lives.” It is only when we come to see the sheer goodness of our limitedness that we can begin to relate properly as finite creatures before an infinite Creator and “worship him as he made us: dignified, purposeful, vulnerable, finite creatures. We do not apologize for our creaturely needs and dependence on others, for we discover this is how God made us, and it is good.”
Kapic does this by considering what God thinks of us in our limitations and considering the humanity of Jesus Christ. He considers the human body and what it says about our limitations and then considers identity in the context of family, culture, and our particular historical setting. With this groundwork in place, he considers humility, time, the process of change, the local church, and living faithfully as believers in Jesus Christ. By the end he has called his readers to see and believe that we were meant to live within our limitations and to live with dependency upon God. “God made us to be limited creatures, able to freely participate in his work, confident in his presence, and grateful for his promises and provision. Let us appreciate the goodness of our finitude as we rest in the love and provision of our infinitely good God. May it be so.” May it be so, indeed.
Kapic makes it clear in this book that it is a passion project, the culmination of many years of reflecting on the subject of finitude. That passion and depth of reflection is obvious from cover to cover and leads to a book that deep in its theology and profound in its teaching. It is at once comforting and challenging. Sinclair Ferguson summarizes it well when he says, “no hastily prepared, cheap-fix antidote, You’re Only Human is the product of years of reflection and concern, the work of a mature Christian theologian and a fine teacher. It is a love gift to the church.” I, like he, am glad to recommend it.
Buy from Amazon
By Tim Challies — 4 months ago
This Q&A with Michael Horton comes from Zondervan Reflective. Learn more about Horton’s new book at RecoveringOurSanity.com.
What prompted you to write Recovering Our Sanity?
Michael Horton: The replication of America’s “civil war” in the body of Christ. It’s one thing to be hated by the world because of the gospel; it’s another thing for Christians to hate each other because of politics. But then it seemed like, with the last couple of years, a lot of other fears presented themselves in bolder relief. It’s deeper than whether you wear a face mask.
What’s the #1 moral and spiritual problem in America today? Take a minute and think about it.
If you’re like me, the top 10 get filled in pretty quickly—the sins of “the others” (or my own that I keep secret). Now, what’s the #1 sin in the whole of biblical history? “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Gen 20:11; Dt. 25:18; Ps 36:1; Rom 3:17, etc.). We try to domesticate it: “Fear doesn’t really mean fear; it means respect.” Well, it includes respect, but it’s being super scared—phobos in Greek, as in “phobia.” Why do we think that people shouldn’t be afraid of God? That’s where our problems begin.
So, inspired by Daniel 4, I began to think of how we’re all little Nebuchadnezzars prancing on the roof of our personal palace boasting in our heart, “Is this not the great Babylon I have built by my power and for my glory?” Humbled—actually, humiliated—by God, the king realized the hard way that God is sovereign not just in general but in particular, over him. “I raised my eyes to heaven,” he said, “and my sanity was restored.”
If I never leave my house because I’m jumpy about panthers lying in wait, that’s a little crazy. But it’s no saner to pretend a panther doesn’t exist if I meet one in the wild. It’s just the opposite for us right now. We’re terrified of losing power, security, elections, prosperity, health, a job, and so forth, while the fear of God is often the last thing we take seriously. I’m not just talking about “Others” but “Us.”
So what is the sanity that you would like to see us recover?
Horton: Sanity is just living with the grain of reality. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov 9:10). It’s the fear of the Lord that drives us to God’s mercy in Christ. “But with you, there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps 130:4). What a paradox, right? There’s a terrifying, unsettling fear of God that’s just sane. Then there’s a new kind of fear—with the anxiety removed—that results from the gospel. It’s sane too, but a total surprise. Two different sorts of fear: one from Mount Sinai, the other from Mount Calvary. And we need both.
How has “cancel culture” exacerbated our fears? Should Christians be concerned with being on the “right side of history?”
Horton: I’m a 56-year-old guy raising teens. I have fears, believe me. In no other period have social convictions about right and wrong changed dramatically in such a short period of time. But that includes insulting people’s dignity by “canceling” them. That used to not be ok. But now many Christians think it’s fine because we’re good and they’re bad—really bad.
When we get to the place of canceling, we’ve closed our hearts and turned off our minds. Now it’s just emotional blackmail, manipulation to get what we want. We sort of started this with boycotting Disney and then others back in the 1980s.
Peter tells us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” That’s well-placed fear. Next sentence: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” It’s been said that a quarrel kills a good argument. If I can’t listen and formulate a good argument, I’ll just toss verbal grenades and slogans at people. “Well, you’re just a homophobe” or “You’re a Social Justice Warrior.” We throw out epithets like “Critical Race Theory” (or just “CRT”) or “Christian Nationalist” as if the person we’re talking to can be dismissed with a label. And there’s one more sentence in 1 Peter 3:15: “But do this with gentleness and respect.” I can do that when I fear God instead of my neighbor.
The Bible gives us a story in which the stories of the daily news can be interpreted properly. Instead, we often interpret the Bible in light of the daily news. The church reflects the same worldly divisions. There are “FOX” churches and “CNN” churches. We’re certainly not getting the fear of God from those outlets. They’re just stoking our other fears—and making a lot of money in the process.
Jesus is the “right side of history.” He went to the cross but was raised on the third day and is glorified at the right hand of the Father, interceding for sinners, until he returns to establish final justice, righteousness, peace, and life. We’re called to care about the common good of our neighbors in this life—indeed, more than expecting the world to treat us well. But we’re longing ultimately for their salvation and incorporation into Christ’s body. When we see our neighbors through his eyes, through the lens of his love and mercy, we begin to honor them as created in his image and in need of Christ just like us. We don’t cancel fellow image-bearers of God.
What the world needs to see are not fearful, angry, and proud Christians making the same stand that Republicans and Democrats make. The world doesn’t need the church to make a statement by wearing or not wearing masks. The world needs to hear good news, good arguments, and see Christians on their knees with the tax collector instead of in the peanut gallery with the Pharisee, confessing their sins and being forgiven. Because let’s face it, Christians have done some pretty bad stuff in Jesus’ name. “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law,” Paul indicts. “For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:23-24).
Precisely because we live in Jesus’ story, we take justice and righteousness seriously but know that it won’t ever be established perfectly and finally until Jesus does it in person. Not just “Others” but “We” will be praying, “Have mercy on me, a sinner,” until Jesus returns.
You say that “death is the ultimate source of our anxieties and that fear of it can make us do some crazy things.” Can you tell us more about this?
Horton: As Christians, we say we believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” But often we live as if death and its symptoms—loneliness, job loss, moral decay and injustice, climate change, health, and politics—are in charge. That’s what I mean by “we worship what we fear.” If I’m most afraid of losing my job, then I’m finding my security in someone or something other than Christ. If I’m afraid of not being happy, I’ll make my wife and kids bear the burden of ultimate satisfaction—and maybe ditch them or ignore them when they don’t. If I’m afraid of all the social, political, economic, and moral changes, I’ll blame “Them”—whoever they are—for my unhappiness.
But when we raise our eyes to heaven like Nebuchadnezzar, our sanity is restored. That’s just living with the grain of reality. When we imagine we’re in charge, that we can transform ourselves or our world, or that the government or entertainment or a political figure can do this for us, it’s literally insane. It’s living against the grain of reality.
Reality is defined by the Triune God—the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit. First, God created us. We belong to him. He’s not there for our happiness. We exist for his glory and we’re made to enjoy him. When we enjoy someone or something else in that way, we make them our “creator.” Second, we belong to him by right of redemption. He chose us, redeemed us, regenerated, adopted, and justified us; incorporated us into Christ’s body. Praise the Lord that he has the whole world—and us—in his hands and he knows where history is going and in fact is already up ahead of us, leading us there by his word and Spirit.
Why is regular involvement in a local church essential?
Horton: Actual institutions mediating between the state and the individual are disintegrating. This is where the kingdom of Christ really stands out—or should, at least. When Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” he wasn’t talking about a Platonic idea. He meant concrete, local, embodied branches of himself as the Vine.
In a world of soundbites and surrogates, we go to church to actually encounter the God who made and redeemed us. We’re not just hearing the story again but being re-casted by the Holy Spirit from the dead-end stories of this fading age into the greatest story ever told: reality. Here, God makes a real promise with real words from the lips of another sinner, uses real water to seal that promise, and keeps pledging with real wine and bread. It’s where we hear, sing, and pray God’s word together, confess our sins together and confess our common faith in the Triune God, hear God’s absolution. We become what the word says. CNN and FOX won’t be covering that, but it’s the “breaking news.” And we’re no longer afraid.
How does Christian nationalism violate the doctrine of “one holy, catholic, and apostolic church?”
Horton: There is one Christian nation made up of “people from every tribe and people and nation and tongue” (Rev 5:9). Christ is the head with many members, the Vine with many branches. And a lot of those members or branches are people we see as “Them,” not “Us.” The world can’t unite people of different ethnic, socio-economic, and political backgrounds. In fact, big government, big entertainment media, and big business thrive on our divisions. But Christ promises to incorporate our divided social communities and our own divided selves into himself as the head.
America has had a lot of Christian influence, a lot of it for the common good. But white Christians have done terrible things in the name of Christ throughout our history. We’ve used Jesus and the Bible for our sinful agendas. We have to own up to that. “Christian America” means something different to an African-American brother or sister than it does to a white Christian school teacher.
America doesn’t pick up the story where Israel left off. Often, the Black church has also appealed to these narratives as if they applied to the America envisioned by Dr. King rather than by white nationalists. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story, not America. He is the true Israel. The United States is not God’s chosen people.
Once we accept that, we can truly secularize the narrative—not in the sense that God hasn’t blessed America providentially with a lot of blessings, but in the sense that the sacred isn’t allowed to migrate from Christ’s kingdom to the kingdoms of this age. To identify Christ’s kingdom with any kingdom of this age is to reject “one holy, catholic [worldwide] and apostolic church.”
All of this to say that all empires of this age are corrupt and destined to crumble. The founding fathers gave us a great Constitution—in my view, the best in history, but it’s not inspired and inerrant and it is the New Testament that provides the constitution for the new covenant people of God. All the other kingdoms will be shaken, leaving at the end only one left standing (Heb 12:28).
What is your hope for the readers of this book?
Horton: If we recover a fear of God, we’ll recover sanity. I’m not writing for the general public. The main reader I have in mind is someone like me who believes that Jesus is the only way, the Bible is the only reliable revelation of God’s saving purposes, and yet feels anxious about life right now. It’s not a jeremiad. I’m not indicting. Rather, my hope is that we can all return to “the solid joys and lasting treasures that none but Zion’s children know.” And that starts with the fear of God that is the beginning of sanity.
Learn more at RecoveringOurSanity.com.