I am very thankful to ChurchSocial for sponsoring the blog this week. ChurchSocial gives congregations a safe place to communicate, share information, and manage membership online. We use it at my church and are grateful for it!
Today’s Kindle deals (and yesterday’s) include a number of interesting titles.
Westminster Books is offering a deal on a new book titled EveryPsalm.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Tallest Trees and the Strongest Winds)
Be sure to read Trevin Wax’s beautiful reflection on melting snow and the dawn of spring.
There are few sins more odious than grumbling. In this article, Joni Eareckson Tada tells why she refuses to give in to the temptation.
Writing for 9Marks, Nicholas Piotrowski and Ryan Johnson clarify a familiar passage. “It’s common to hear Christians speak of their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. The implication is that we should treat our physical bodies with appropriate reverence.” But the context seems to indicate Paul is speaking of something more corporate than individual.
I don’t necessarily align with the specific measures at the end of the article, but I think the main points are important: You don’t have to give your child a smartphone; and if you do, you need to help them use it well.
I appreciate Cheryl explaining some of what she is confident in.
In Proverbs, Wisdom says “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.” But aren’t we supposed to refrain from mocking someone else’s downfall?
What would I have to deny in order to deny hell? If I am ever to come to the point of denying the existence of hell, what will be the doctrinal cost of getting there?
When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad. You need not worry about what men may say or do; you know you deserve it all and more.
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By Tim Challies — 9 months ago
I was once told the story of a child who had been invited to spend a sunny summer day playing with his friends. He lived in a rural area and it took him a good bit of time to make the trek. But the child made his way toward his friends as they made their way toward him and eventually they came upon one another halfway. Soon they were climbing trees and jumping creeks and skipping rocks and generally having the time of their lives.
Around dusk, the boy realized he should begin his return journey. But just as he was about to say his farewells, one of the other lads began to tell a story. The child, once drawn in, couldn’t force himself away. He sat in rapt attention as the story progressed, as the action waxed and waned, as the hero faced peril and emerged victorious.
By the time the story was complete, the sun had dipped behind the distant horizon. Now the boy gazed into the gathering darkness and realized he was afraid to set out by himself. He asked his friends to come with him, but they all needed to return in the opposite direction. As the boy dawdled and tried to work up his courage, the sun’s last rays disappeared from the sky. He fretted about his family, wondering if they were concerned about what had become of him.
The night grew darker still as clouds rolled in and began to blanket the moon and the stars. At last he decided he must stop procrastinating and set out. But just as he stood to his feet, a blinding flash of lightning shot from the sky and it was soon followed by a mighty crack of thunder. His courage failed him altogether.
Yet just as he was about to sink into utter despair, his eye spotted a flicker of light bobbing in the distance. Curious, he watched as it grew closer, as it grew brighter. And, then, to his delight, he saw that it was his older brother come to fetch him, come to bring him home. And now he quickly said farewell to his friends and boldly stepped into the darkness. He confidently made his way toward his brother who then led him safely home—home where his family threw their arms around him, home where a meal had been laid out for him, home where peace and rest awaited him.
And after the storyteller had said all of this, he paused for a moment. He paused to gather his thoughts and consider his words. And then he spoke once more.
So may it be for you when the night of death comes. So may it be for you when your friends cannot accompany you. So may it be for you when you do not dare to go alone.
On that day, your friend who is closer than a brother, your Savior who is your elder brother, will come to meet you at just the right time. In his hand will be the lantern of all the precious promises he has made, and this will be the lamp to your feet and the light to your path. He will lead you through the dark night and into the brightest day. He will accompany you to the place where your family awaits you and longs to see you, the place where a great supper has been laid out for you, the place where God himself is ready to welcome you home. Never, no never, do you need to fear that you will have to go that way alone.
Inspired by De Witt Talmage
By Tim Challies — 2 years ago
The young man had forsaken his father, claimed an early inheritance, and blown it all in reckless living. Having fallen from riches to poverty, this prodigal son was now in the most desperate of straights—working hard, eating little, spiraling ever downward.
But on one brutal day, when he was as low as low could be, a thought suddenly flashed into his mind: “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and I’m here dying of hunger!” The thought birthed an idea: “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” He understood that though he was no longer worthy to be considered his father’s son, he would gladly take a place as his father’s slave.
So he set out to return home and at last arrived at the outskirts of his father’s holdings. As his foot hovered beside the boundary marker, he paused for just a moment to run over his plan and rehearse his words. “I have sinned. I am not worthy. Make me your servant. I have sinned. I am not worthy. Make me your servant.” With a whispered prayer, he steeled his gaze and began to shuffle forward.
He had taken only a few steps when suddenly, in the distance ahead, he saw someone approaching, running, almost sprinting in his direction. His arms looked to be open wide in a gesture of embrace. As the form came closer, there was a flash of recognition: his older brother. He must have been overseeing the field servants nearby when he spotted his younger sibling and came running toward him. Now, as he approached, the younger man saw that his brother’s arms were not open in embrace, but open in the universal gesture for “stop.” In just a few moments the two stood face-to-face.
The older spoke first: “What on earth are you doing here? After all you’ve done, how dare you set foot on this land?”
“I know I blew it,” the younger replied meekly. “I know I sinned. But I have nothing left. I’ve come to ask dad if he will let me be his servant.”
“Do you know what you did to dad when you left? Do you know how badly you shamed and embarrassed him in front of the entire community? He wants nothing to do with you.”
“I know he won’t ever take me back into the family. I wouldn’t even ask. But I know that he’s kinder to his slaves than most people are to their sons. I don’t need privileges. I just need kindness.”
“He doesn’t love you anymore. He doesn’t want you anymore. You’re dead to him.”
“I just want to talk to him. I just want to plead with him. I have seen him extend mercy to others—maybe he’ll extend it to me as well.”
“Mercy? To you? You’re an absolute disgrace. You disgust me and you’ll disgust him. You’re filthy. You stink.”
“I know. I know I do. I’ve been sleeping in barns. I’ve been eating with animals. I’m starving. I’m broken. I’m done.”
“I’m the future of this family. I’ve done everything dad has asked of me. I’ve obeyed his every word. It’s me he loves.”
“I know. I know you’re worthy of dad’s love. I know I’m not. But maybe dad has some love for the unworthy. I just want to ask. I just want to beg.”
“Come on! You know how just and fair dad is. He can’t just pretend you didn’t betray him. And he certainly hasn’t forgotten what you did to him. He won’t forget. He can’t forget.”
“I know. I can’t either.”
“None of us will ever forget what you did. None of us will ever forget who you are.”
As a tear cascaded from the young man’s eye, his older brother spoke once more: “Tell you what: You march yourself back up that road. I don’t want you to even think about coming back until you’ve cleaned yourself up, until you don’t stink anymore, until you’ve put on some decent clothes, and until you can reimburse dad every single penny you took from him. Then maybe, just maybe, he’ll be willing to see you.”
“I guess it’s only fair.”
“Go. Get out of here. You’re lost—don’t come back until you’ve found yourself.”
“You’re right. I’ll go. I’ll try to clean myself up. I’ll try to earn it all back. And if I do, I’ll return and prove myself to dad.”
And with that, the younger son turned around. He headed back up the roadway and past the boundary marker, each step extending the distance between himself and his father. His brother stood and watched him go, a satisfied grin on his face.
“I think I’m going to throw myself a little party,” he said. “I deserve it.”
(Author’s note: Have you ever considered what might have happened if the prodigal son met his older brother before his father?)
By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
I once heard a Christian say that when he arrives in heaven he does not expect not hear “well done, good and faithful servant,” as much as “well tried.” He does not mean that God will be impressed by a reckless succession of rash attempts at self-grandiosity. He does not mean that God will laud him for projects he began with great passion before losing interest and becoming distracted by the next big thing. No, he means only that he believes God will reward him for his constant attempts to seek and do what He commands. He expects that though in the final accounting his accomplishments may add up to little, his attempts at faithfulness will add up to much.
There are many things we begin with great energy and many projects we undertake with great enthusiasm. Convicted by the preaching of the Word or persuaded by our reading of providence, we determine that we will make a substantial change to our lives or embark on a ministry that will bless others. We attempt little things, big things, and things in-between. And though some of them succeed some of the time, many of them do not. Though a few of them grow up to become big things, far more of them remain tiny things or soon enough become former things.
A man longed to create a ministry through his local church that would serve the residents of a long-term care home. This was surely a good and noble desire and he embarked upon it with great gusto. But though he labored diligently, he received few opportunities to meet with people in that home or to care for them. And though he told other believers about it, he learned that few of them had interest in joining him. He pressed on for a time, but eventually surrendered to the inevitable and determined he would invest his time and energy in other forms of service. And though this ministry was by most measures unsuccessful, I am convinced God will proudly say to him, “Well tried.”
A woman who was dedicating her life to raising her children wished to supplement her family’s income, so began a part-time business. Her motives were good and so was her plan. She began to work around the family’s schedule, getting up a few minutes early, staying up an hour late, sending some emails during the kids’ quiet time. The business grew at first but then stagnated. The business generated a bit of income, but only a bit—not enough to help in a substantial way or even to justify her time. And so she folded it up. Was this a failure? In one sense it may have been since the business had to be wound down, but in another sense it was not, for the woman did no wrong and committed no sin. For whatever reason, God’s providence directed that the business would not thrive or succeed. But surely she, too, will hear, “Well tried.”
Missionaries who set out to foreign lands but soon have to return. Pastors who found churches that fail to grow. Authors who pour their hearts out on the page but sell few copies of their books. Young people who start a Christian group on campus but have no one show up. I suspect that with an honest accounting you’d have to admit that your life is much like mine in that it is marked by all manner of failure—failure in the home, failure in the church, failure in the neighborhood, failure in the workplace. And if not full-out failure, just plain mediocrity, a lack of success, a lack of great triumphs. But surely part of the reason we fail much is that we attempt much. Surely part of the reason we see so many mediocre results is that we at least have the courage to try. The only way to guard against all failure is to attempt nothing at all. But that, of course, is its own form of failure.
Our God-given goal in life is not to succeed at all we attempt. It is good to succeed, of course, and we should not laud failure as if it is nobler than success. But it is God who is sovereign over all of our affairs and his concern is not so much that we succeed or fail but that we grow in godly character. What matters to God is not our plaudits and accolades, but our conformity to Christ. And the fact is that though God shapes us through our successes, he often does so even more through our failures. It is through failures that we so often learn our finitude, through our failures that we so often gain humility, through our failures that we so often put off many vices and put on many graces. God is at work in us even when it’s hard to see how he may be at work through us.
The day will come when we will stand before the Lord to give an account of how we used our gifts, talents, time, energy, enthusiasm, and everything else God has graciously bestowed upon us. Failure would be to admit that not only did we do nothing, but that we attempted nothing. Success would be to recount those things we dreamed of and prayed for and attempted, even if they led to no great results. For surely in the mind of God, faithfulness is its own accomplishment, faithfulness marked by attempts to do those things that delight his heart. Surely it is his joy to commend us for successes and failures alike: “Well tried, good and faithful servant.”