Presumption

I was reading today in 1 Samuel 4, about the leaders of the young nation of Israel. They had just been defeated in battle by the Philistines, most likely for not having consulted the Lord in advance. Instead of regrouping to seek the Lord and inquire about these matters, they went further astray, deciding to force God’s hand to support their campaign…

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2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (esv)

The presence of the corrupt sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) signals the reader of pending doom (as foretold in chapter 3). You can guess that it did not end well — they were defeated, these wicked men were killed, and the Ark of the LORD was captured by the enemy. It’s interesting to notice more fear and awe of the LORD on the part of the Philistines than the presumptive Israelites in the passage.

As I prayed and reflected on this today, the grave sin of presumption stood out to me. When we do not find things going well, or worse, dare we think that the problem is the lack of input and effort on the part of our Lord?? Can our God be manipulated into blessing our various endeavors? I should say not.

Once again I discover the value of daily reading God’s holy Word, to examine my thinking in its light and to put a check my self-centeredness. The Word and prayer. I need these daily.

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Nature is not our “mother” but our sister….

As the media continues to wig-out over our wintry weather, and as pop culture fills 1439189_60768599terabytes of social media with pictures and captions expressing weather weariness, Christians should remain vigilant not to use the pagan language referring to nature as our “Mother.”

I was reminded of this as I read the latest dispatch from The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. Just today Dr. Gary L. Welton, an assistant dean and professor of psychology at GCC wrote a great little essay: “Mother Nature? Nature is Not Our Mother.” It’s more than a boiler-plate warning; he shares some interesting insights, stirred by the old G. K. Chesteron. Welton writes —

G. K. Chesterton, however, wrote in “Orthodoxy” that, “The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.” He argued that because we share the same father, we are siblings. Nature has no authority over us. “Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.”

He also quotes James Fennimore Cooper as he elaborates on the whole sibling idea. But he does arrive at an important consideration:

Although the analogy of nature as our sister works better than the analogy of nature as our mother, there is a sense in which the analogy falls short. In the creation mandate, we are instructed to have dominion over nature. My parents never gave me any dominion over my sister. Although there are a few times I tried to establish such dominion, she never allowed it. Our charge to have dominion over nature is not consistent with the sister analogy.

This is timely stuff from the helpful Vision & Values team at GCC. I suggest you subscribe to their emails. At least click on over and read Welton’s essay (just a page or so long), here.

~ pdb

Contentment, a helpful analogy

This week I ran across this analogy of contentment as enjoying a comfortable home life. It was written few centuries ago a puritan pastor in a book entitled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
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The one who is filled with good things [contentment] is just like many a man who enjoys an abundance of comforts at home, in his own house. God grants him a pleasant home, a good wife, and fine walks and gardens, and he has all things at home that he could desire. Now such a man does not care much for going out. Other men are fain to go out and see friends, because they have quarreling and contending at home. Many poor husbands will give this reason, if their wives moan, and complain of their faults and short-comings. They make it their excuse to go out, because they can never be quiet at home. Now we account those men most happy who have everything at home. Those who have confined homes that are unpleasant and evil-smelling, delight to go into the fresh air, but it is not so with many others that have good things at home. Those who have no good cheer at home are fain to go our to friends, but those who tables are well furnished would as soon stay at home. So a carnal man has little contentment in his own spirit. It is Augustine who likens a bad conscience to a scolding wife: a man who has a bad conscience does not carte to look into his own soul, but loves to be out, and to look into other things; he never looks to himself. But one who has a good conscience delights in looking into his own heart; he has a good conscience with him. A carnal heart seeks his contentment elsewhere because there is nothing but a filthy stink, vileness and baseness within himself.”

Jeremiah Burroughs
pages 76-77, (emphasis added)
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
(1648; Banner of Truth reprint, 1964)

Do You Know “Talkative”?

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“Talkative” is one of the characters in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. In a fine blog post today (here), Pastor Chris Braun says he is someone you should know. In fact, you might just be talkative.

His main points state:

Talkative looks better from a distance than near at hand.
• Talkative enjoys talking about Christianity.
• Talkative knows the Bible.
• Talkative’s hypocrisy shows in his home life.
• Talkative is self-deceived. His prayer life does not match what he says.
• Christians should speak plainly with Talkative so that he cannot easily continue in being self-deceived.

Take a look at his post for yourself. It includes some Bunyan quotes for each main point, and the actual dialogue from the original book.

Sadly, many will discover on Judgment Day
that their name is merely “Talkative.”

pdb

Resurrecting dating

Over at the Desiring God blog, Marshall Segal has a wonderful article entitled, When the Not-Yet Married Meet: Dating to Display Jesus. His opening words are:

Dating is dead.

So says the media. Girls, stop expecting guys to make any formal attempt at winning your affections. Don’t sit around waiting for a boy to make you a priority, communicate his intentions, or even call you on the phone. Exclusivity and intentionality are ancient rituals, things of the past, and misplaced hopes.

I beg to differ. It’s not that this new line of thinking is necessarily untrue today, or that it’s not the current and corrupt trend of our culture. It’s wrong. One of our most precious pursuits, that of a life-long partner for all of life, is tragically being relegated to tweets, texts, and Facebook pokes, to ambiguous flirtation and fooling around. It’s wrong.
[emphasis added]

1415226_embracing_coupleAfter helpfully opening up the natural of dating (“where does marriage come from?”) he then goes on to write several paragraphs under each of these headings, explaining how one should date and how dating ought to look forward to marriage:

1. It really is as simple as they say (reminding us that “marriage really is less about compatibility than commitment”).

2. Know what makes a marriage worth having. (hint, it has to do with helping you learn more about God)

3. Look for clarity more than intimacy. Here’s the whole of this incredibly wise section (soak up that second paragraph) —

The greatest danger of dating is giving parts of our hearts and lives to someone to whom we’re not married. It is a significant risk, and many, many men and women have deep and lasting wounds from relationships because a couple enjoyed emotional or physical closeness without a lasting, durable commitment. Cheap intimacy feels real for the moment, but you get what you pay for.

While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our effort there.

In our pursuit of clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively. Be intentional and outspoken to one another that, as Christians, intimacy before marriage is dangerous, while clarity is unbelievably precious.

4. Find a fiancé on the frontlines. (this refers to finding someone who is serving God too)

5. Don’t let your mind marry him before the rest of you can. (Here Marshall writes, “The trajectory of all truly Christian romance ought to be marriage, so it should not surprise us that our dreams and expectations, our hearts, race out ahead of everything else.”)

6. Boundaries make for the best of friends. (“Boundaries are necessary because on the road to marriage and its consummation, the appetite for intimacy only grows as you feed it.”)

7. Consistently include your community. (He says make sure other people [eg, church] are involved as you develop your relationship).

8. Let all your dating be missionary dating. (No, he doesn’t mean date non-Christians; rather, “dating that displays and promotes faith in Jesus and his good news, a dating that is in step with the gospel before the watching world.”)

Now, go read the WHOLE THING HERE for your own benefit, or to share with another. I pray for all who want God’s will for their relationships (and marriage) will think along these lines.
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Learn from Judas Iscariot

On the first Good Friday, when Jesus had finished wrestling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciple Judas came to Him, leading a band of Jewish officials and armed men. “Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:48, ESV). It is a moment of spiritual treason as a disciple — one of the Twelve Apostles — betrays his master to His mortal enemies.

1158157_96927848We do well to pause and learn from Judas here. You should ask yourself some serious, spiritual questions on this Good Friday. I was led to do so after reading a couple pages in a recent book by Michael McKinley entitled PASSION, How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day (The Good Book Co., 2013). Here’s a good way to learn from Judas —

It’s worth remembering the things that Judas had seen and done. He was one of the disciples sent out to preach the gospel with power to cast out demons and heal people (Luke 9:1-2). He sat in a boat as Jesus calmed a storm with a word (8:22-25). He saw Jesus feed the 5,000 (9:10-17). He watched as Jesus raised people from the dead (7:11–17). He heard Jesus’ sermons, probably multiple times. He was personally selected by Jesus to be part of HIs inner circle. He had even had his feet washed by Jesus!

And yet… despite all of those amazing experiences, Judas turns out not to be a disciple. He is not a true follower of Jesus. In the end, he is a traitor and a liar and a thief. He is a real-life example of what Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (ESV)

Judas is a chilling reminder to us that you can’t rely on your past experiences as an indication of your current spiritual condition. And so Judas’ example should cause us to pause. If you think of yourself as a Christian, have you ever stopped to think how you can be sure you really are a Christian? Why are you confident that you are a genuine follower of Jesus? Because your parents are believers? Because you go to a church and everyone there assumes you are a Christian? Because you have served faithfully in your church? Maybe even because you’ve preached sermons or led people to Christ?

Judas reminds us that nothing you have done in the past can assure you that you are truly a follower of Christ. Yes, good fruit in your life is a good sign. But look at Judas; examine the resume that he could roll out for you. He looked good on paper, but in reality he sent Jesus to His death. Nothing you or I have seen or accomplished, nothing in our pedigree or experience can ultimately makes us a Christian.

from PASSION, How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day, by Mike McKinley, pages 30-31.
[boldface added]

Tony Reinke

Slow is bad in the modern vernacular, but around this time of the year the slow celebration of Advent serves as a reminder of just how right and precious slow is the plan of God. Take the lesson from Octavius Winslow and the words he penned in his book The Glory of the Redeemer (1844):

The entire theocracy of the Israelites was interwoven with a system of symbols and types of the most significant and instructive character. It was thus the wisdom and the will of God that the revelation of Jesus to the Church should assume a consecutive and progressive form. Not a sudden but a gradual descent to the world, marked the advent of our adorable Redeemer.

The same principle of progressiveness is frequently seen in a saving discovery of Christ to the soul. Not by an immediate and instantaneous revelation, not by a single glance of the…

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Tooth and Nail?

“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15 esv

Such violence is brutish. God hath armed the beasts with teeth and claws, but man with reason and judgment; to smite with the hand is beneath a man; to smite with the tongue beneath a Christian…

Thomas Manton, Works v:400

Do not poison your concept of Heaven

Is your understanding of Heaven poisoned by self-centeredness? In one of the most helpful books on Heaven and Hell, Edward Donnelly writes that

“Heaven does not exist primarily for our sake. Its main purpose is not to make us happy, to offer us a selection of pleasures, or to provide for us an eternity of well-being. It will do all these things… but that is not why God created heaven and it is not why he will bring heaven to its glorious consummation at the return of Christ. Heaven exists for God’s own glory. It is essential that this be absolutely clear before we move on. If it is not, our whole concept of heaven will be poisoned by self-centeredness. We will have a degraded perspective, interested in heaven only for what we hope to get our of it. And that is profoundly wrong.”

Amen.

Quoted from:
Edward Donnelly, HEAVEN AND HELL,
Banner of Truth Trust, 2001,
page 77 (emphasis added).

Improve your mind

Isaac Watts, the famous hymn writer calls us to be intentional about improving our minds.

…every son and daughter of Adam has a most important concern in the affairs of the life to come, and therefore it is a matter of the highest moment, for everyone to understand, to judge, and to reason right about the things of religion. It is vain for any to say, we have no leisure time for it. The daily intervals of time, and vacancies from necessary labour, together with the one day in seven in the Christian world, allows sufficient time for this, if men would but apply themselves to it with half so much zeal and diligence as they do to the trifles and amusements of this life, and it would turn to infinitely better account.
 
Thus it appears to be the necessary duty and the interest of every person living, to improve his understanding, to inform his judgment, to treasure up useful knowledge, and to acquire the skill of good reasoning, as far as his station capacity and circumstances furnish him as his station, capacity, with proper means for it. Our mistakes in judgment may plunge us into much folly and guilt in practice. By acting without thought or reason, we dishonor the God that made us reasonable creatures, we often become injurious to our neighbors, kindred, or friends, and we bring sin and misery upon ourselves; for we are accountable to God, our judge, for every part of our irregular and mistaken conduct, where he hath given us sufficient advantages to guard against those mistakes.”

 
~ Isaac Watts, The Improvement of the Mind, (1837).
[emphasis added]