A La Carte (May 9)
Blessings to you on this fine day.
The Growth of Good Theology in Africa
This is an excellent article from TGC as they profile Ken Mbugua and tell about his work in Kenya.
Do you need to go to deliverance ministries?
And speaking of good theology in Africa (in general) and Kenya (in particular), here’s an article from Kuza about deliverance ministries.
Studying the Bible is not Code Breaking
“Some Christians act like the Bible is written in a mysterious language, accessible only to a select few. Bible study is left to the brilliant, the professionals who can teach the rest of us.” This is not right!
The Book That Packed A Punch
“Marking time is an odd aspect of human existence. Anniversaries divisible by five, ten, or twenty-five have more significance than those using lesser divisors. A centennial or bi-centennial raises the stakes even higher. The hundredth anniversary this year of Christianity and Liberalism, penned by the then Princeton Seminary professor J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), has prompted some Protestants to take another look at the book that Yale historian, Sydney Ahlstrom, called the ‘chief theological ornament’ of Protestant fundamentalism.”
What’s the Difference between Venting and Lamenting?
“Christians today are increasingly aware of the importance of emotions. This growing emotional awareness is a positive development—especially when we learn how to process those emotions with God! At the same time, and perhaps even connected to this heightened emotional awareness, there is a growing recognition of the importance of lament. But as we think through processing our emotions and practicing lament, there is an important distinction to make. That distinction is the difference between venting and lamenting.”
A Plea for Fewer Metaphors in Children’s Talks
TGC Australia offers some pointers for those who teach children.
Flashback: The Parable of the Acorn
We find ourselves attuned more to our spiritual defeats than spiritual victories, more to the sin that remains than the holiness won. Though we may not be who and what we once were, we are still not nearly who and what we long to be.
So dear is sin to a man, that he will rather part with a child than a lust… —Thomas Watson
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Rest Takes WorkBy Tim Challies — 5 months ago
I messed up over the Christmas holidays. I made a simple but silly mistake—a mistake that left me entering the new year feeling weary instead of rested, feeling drained instead of energized. It was a failure to plan, a failure to remember a simple truth about work and rest.
Like so many other people, I chose not to work during the week that falls between Christmas and New Year’s—at least, not to do more than the minimum (which is essentially just running my daily A La Carte column). In my case it makes sense because few people take the time to read blogs over the holidays. They are distracted and out of their normal habits and routines, so readership plummets and that makes it an ideal time to reduce my effort. So I didn’t really work. But I also didn’t really rest.
My planning had gone as far as to block the time off but not as far as to figure out what I would do instead. I freed up a solid 40 hours between 9 and 5, but didn’t put anything in its place. And so what I found myself doing was, well, nothing. Or, at least, nothing useful. I watched dumb stuff on YouTube and caught up on some programs on Prime Video. I scrolled through a bunch of sites that were interesting, though not particularly edifying. I didn’t do anything bad, but I also didn’t do anything good. And at the end of it all I just felt bored and I felt drained and I felt bad about myself.
It was only as the weekend came and I faced the prospect of the end of the holidays that I understood the mistake I had made. It was only then that I remembered that I need to plan my rest as much as my work. It was only then that I remembered that I rest best when I rest according to at least some kind of a plan. I just don’t have the instincts or the self-control or the character to make something when I’ve planned nothing.
What I should have done was put at least a bit of thought into the week that loomed empty before me. I should have prepared a book or two that would have been light but still interesting. I should have booked a day trip or two that I would have enjoyed with my family. I should have found a location or two that I’ve never photographed before and planned to visit them. I would have found any or all of this truly restful.
But I didn’t. So I suppose I will simply have to accept the mistake I made and embrace it as an opportunity to grow—an opportunity to learn that rest takes work, that if I am going to truly rest, I will need to rest according to plan.
No Unfinished SculpturesBy Ref Cast — 2 years ago
Many would agree that Michelangelo’s David is among the world’s greatest artistic achievements and a true masterpiece of sculpture. What few know is that Michelangelo was not the original artist. The commission had first gone to Agostino di Duccio, but he got only as far as roughing out the shape of the legs and body before his work ceased. Antonio Rossellino soon took it up, but only for a short time, before he, too, quit. The block then sat exposed to the elements for 26 years before Michelangelo finally accepted the challenge. In just over twenty-four months he had completed the task and the sculpture was installed outside Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. It has now been thrilling and inspiring audiences for more than 500 years.
In recent weeks Grace Fellowship Church has had the privilege of baptizing several new believers. Each one has given testimony to God’s work in his or her life. Each has described a life given over to sin, a life given over to illicit pleasures, a life given over to ultimate meaninglessness. Then each has described hearing the good news of Jesus Christ, accepting and believing that gospel, and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness.
And on a recent Sunday, as I heard another one tell of the good and gracious acts of God in his life, I was struck by the beauty of God’s work in transforming and completing what others began. When Michelangelo was given his commission, he knew that others had already labored on his block of marble, but was certain he could work around their flawed attempts and make good of them. He knew that previous artists had complained that the marble was too weak, too flawed, to liable to crumble to dust, but he was confident he could work with it. He knew the other artists had wanted to portray David in a classical pose but that he had something better in mind. In his mind’s eyes he saw the sculpture that had to be gently coaxed out of the raw marble and had every confidence he could complete the task.
And just so, God sees the beautiful person within the ones he calls to himself. He knows that the world has begun to shape that person in its image, but he is certain he can instil within him the values of the kingdom of God. He knows the flesh has been drawing that person toward every carnal pleasure, but he is confident he can draw him toward higher pleasures. He knows the devil has begun to shape him in the image of hell, but he is convinced can shape him in the image of heaven. He sees far beyond what the person is and sees what he could be, what he can be, and what he will be.
God promises to continue his work on that person—that magnificent piece of art—until it is complete, until it is exactly the masterpiece he has envisioned. As Toplady said, “The work which His goodness began, / the arm of His strength will complete. / His promise is yes and amen, / And never was forfeited yet.” The God who began his good work will most certainly bring it to completion, for there are no abandoned, unfinished, or incomplete carvings in his gallery.
Learning Lessons From Scandals Close to HomeBy Tim Challies — 3 months ago
Though we would never wish for a scandal to take place and make its way into the headlines, and while we should always regret the circumstances that bring one about, a scandal does offer the opportunity for personal introspection. A wise man will heed its lessons, for it inevitably provides the context to consider whether sin is sneaking up on us as it has on someone else, to practice the biblical admonition “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
In recent months the news around these parts has carried stories of a number of highly-publicized scandals, some of which involve professed Christians and some of which do not. And while none overlap my life or social circles in any significant way, I’ve still found myself pondering the public facts to consider what lessons I can draw from them.
The lesson that is most prominent in my mind is that you’re never too old to destroy your legacy—which is to say that you’re never beyond the temptation to sin. Some of these people had enjoyed many years of service in the public eye and had earned an upright reputation. And then, in the blink of an eye, they had to resign in disgrace. Some tried to express the hope that, because they had done so much good for so long a time, their legacy would not be entirely undermined. Yet, while they may have done much good, they will never outrun the context in which their careers came to so sudden a halt. The lesson is that we can never coast, we can never relax our vigilance against sin until we have safely landed in heaven.
Just behind that lesson is this: sin will often bring the most pain and harm to those we love the most (or are meant to love the most). It is almost unbearable to consider the cost to a wife in shame as news of her husband’s affair crisscrosses the world (and, of course, to a woman’s husband if the wife is the one who has transgressed). Every story will tell of a marriage that must now be in peril because of one spouse’s thoughtlessness, one person’s transgressions. That husband may have enjoyed his sin while it was taking place but his wife and family will know only pain, shame, and confusion. That pastor may have gained some enjoyment while committing his sinful deeds, but how he has resigned and his church is left rocked and hurting. So often the cost of our sin is disproportionately paid by the very people we are charged to love, protect, and care for.
Here’s another lesson: Some people stick around too long. They grow so accustomed to being in the public eye that they cannot tolerate the thought of obscurity, of being a former politician, a former athlete, or even a former pastor. Yet there comes a time when remaining in the public eye (or the pulpit or the conference circuit or …) may reflect idolatry more than necessity or service. That public prominence may have become a matter of identity so that the individual doesn’t know who he would be without the position and the acclaim that comes with it. And there is grave danger that comes to those who are in the public eye to work out their own identity rather than to serve others. Sometimes what’s best for a person, his family, and the people he has served is to step aside—to quit while he is ahead. (The people who most need to quit are probably the very ones who find the thought most unbearable!)
And then this: We are particularly vulnerable to temptation in the area in which we build our “brand.” One of the individuals caught up in a recent scandal branded himself as the consummate family man who loved and valued his wife and family. Yet he now leaves the public eye just hoping he will be able to regain their trust and confidence and salvage something of a relationship with them. Another was an advocate for justice who was found to have committed acts of great injustice. The area in which both of these people wished to present themselves as particularly strong was the very area in which they were particularly vulnerable (or even eager, perhaps) to temptation. And this makes me think of how many Christian “experts” in areas like marriage and family have eventually been unmasked as hypocrites in much the same way and how many advocates of the vulnerable have actually trodden so many underfoot. We easily deceive others and ourselves.
I also see how Satan may send counsellors to try to persuade those who have sinned that they should not allow that sin to drive them from the public eye—that they are so good at what they do or so crucial to their church or organization that they should fight to maintain their position. Sometimes a disgraced individual will initially follow conscience and attempt to do the right thing, only to heed poor counsel and withdraw an earlier resignation. Just when a person seems willing to make much of his sin, he may be encouraged to make little of it. Bad sin so often seems to be followed by bad counsel.
It is also worth reflecting on the fact that a man can be easily flattered. In a number of situations the person was caught up in a sexual scandal with someone quite a bit younger—sometimes in a context that was abusive and sometimes in a context that was consensual. I believe many older men would be able to testify that there can be something very validating about the attention of a younger woman, something very affirming about thinking he’s still got what it takes to attract and woo someone who is much his junior. Aging can certainly be humbling and discouraging, so a man who is wise will consider how he can face and endure it with grace—and not seek out or succumb to flattery.
The final lesson is that your sin will find you out. An old Puritan warned that Satan likes to dangle the bait while hiding the hook. Satan’s greatest trick is to let us think we can enjoy the pleasures of sin without paying its cost. And while we so often get away with it for a while, eventually the hook grabs hold and our sin gets exposed. And while we see this happen time and time again, we seldom seem to learn the lesson. When confronted by the opportunity to sin, we need to consider the cost to ourselves, our family, our church, our testimony, and our Savior. We need to assume that Satan does not just wish for us to sin, but to eventually make that sin every bit as public as was the case for those people we see in the headlines.
I will close out with J.I. Packer’s challenging, sobering words, penned when he was already old and already grappling with the challenges of aging: “Racers always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint … My contention is that so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.” Those who are in that final stretch must make it a sprint indeed—a sprint in which their godly character carries them safely and victoriously over the finish line. Meanwhile, those of us who are still approaching that final stretch must already be laying “aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” so we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us”—and run to the very end without stumbling, without falling, without bringing disgrace to our name or reproach to the name of Christ.