Limits of Online Friendships

Web Wednesday —

Online friendships can be great blessings when placed in their proper perspectives, but perilous when they replace local community and the local church.

So says Phillip Holmes in an article at DesiringGod.org that addresses the nature of online friendships. One great point he makes is this:

The reason we’re tempted to replace real-life relationships with distant, online companions is because they can be messy and extremely taxing and even frightening. How can we endure the risk so that we can reap the benefits? We cast our social anxieties, fears, and heartaches on the one who is able to care for them all — Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can read the whole thing here.

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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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Duties to a Shepherd

Many good reflections about the nature of pastoral ministry in a local church, have emerged in connection with the retirement of John Piper from Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN) after 30+ years there. He wrote a ‘Final Open Letter to My Flock’ in which he expressed his thankfulness for blessings received as a shepherd of the Lord’s flock there. Excerpts include these:
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As far as I know every biblical blessing that a flock owes its shepherd you have given to me during our life together.

• You received my preaching as the word of God; it became active in you, and transformed our life together (1 Thess. 2:13).

• You responded supportively to my leadership knowing I would have to give an account for your souls, and you helped me do this ‘with joy and not with groaning, for that would have been of no advantage to you’ (Heb. 13:17).

• I have spoken freely to you, and opened my heart to you, and been vulnerable with you; and you have cared for me, and opened your hearts wide to me also (2 Cor. 6:11–13).

• You have never assumed that I was above the need for encouragement, and have turned this church into a place where we have been ‘mutually en- couraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine’ (Rom. 1:12).

• You have not muzzled this ox, but have shared all good things with him who teaches. I have never been in need (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6).

• You have multiplied my joy with your biblical faithfulness, for ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth’ (3 Jn 1:4).

• You have treasured Christ and become the mirror of his worth. And for that you are my ‘hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming’ (1 Thess. 2:19).

Honorable Leadership Needed: Joel Beeke on the VP Debate

What has happened to honor — and honorable behavior — in our culture? Concerned from watching VP Joe Biden in the recent debate, Dr Joel Beeke discusses the topic of honor here.

Here are his first 3 paragraphs….

I stared in disbelief at my laptop last night as our Vice President interrupted Congressman Paul Ryan 96 times in about as many minutes of debate. When I observed his arrogance, his degrading laughter, his angry responses, and his dismissive attitude, I was deeply troubled.

These debates are first and foremost about policy. But when one’s attitude is so belligerent an honest dialogue of substantial issues can scarcely take place. It is not enough to excuse our Vice President by simply saying that he was trying to overwhelm the congressman like a tsunami, or to say, “That’s just the way Joe Biden is.” No one should act that way.

A burning issue was raised last night that is not on a party’s political platform, nor on a moderator’s list of questions, but is crucial for our nation. That’s the issue of relating to each other with dignity. Titus 3:2 reminds us “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Even if we believe that another person is wrong and must be publicly corrected (as in a debate), we should do it in a way that shows courtesy and respect (2 Tim. 2:24; 1 Pet. 3:15–16).

Read the whole (brief) article here.

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

Needed: A dose of moral courage

Moral courage is an endangered species in these days, where the T-Rex of political correctness freely roams and seemingly rules the land. I shared the following this morning at our Iron Man Fellowship breakfast as we took up the topic.

“There is among all sorts of persons a crying need to take a dose of moral courage. The need is not for more cleverness or more education, nor for more analysis or more research into man’s problems. It is for more straightforward speaking. It is for more openness. It is for more boldness to call things what they are and to set them in the light of God’s Word. The man who will courageously refuse to play the popular game of deception is the man who will win the title of prophet to this generation.”
~ Maurice Roberts in The Thought of God, page 121.

"The Thought of God" by Maurice Roberts
(Banner of Truth Trust, 1993)

British Pastor Rev. Maurice Roberts was the minister of Ayr Free Church of Scotland from 1974 to 1994, and since then has been the minister of Greyfriars Congregation, Inverness, a congregation of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). He was editor of the Banner of Truth magazine from 1988 to 2003. This older brother in the faith has deep, spiritual insights into life in this present world and is able to preach and write clear words of biblical direction. I have long cherished his brief articles and editorials in the Banner of Truth magazine, which have been available in book form now for several years. Many of his sermons are available online (such as here at the Monergism site, or at SermonAudio.com). Having met him on a few occasions, I have been struck by his personal holiness, his love for the truth and his passion for the glory of God. I’ve often thought this dear brother walks in the manner of the great puritan divines whose theology he shares.

What Kind Of A Pastor Do Sinners Need?

A wonderful reminder…
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What Kind Of A Pastor Do Sinners Need?.

Living like Jesus is the only way

If Jesus is the ONLY way to be right with God, and have any hope of eternal life with Him, then ought we not live in ways consistent with that simple, glorious truth?

Recently my former seminary professor and friend, Dr Tom Schreiner, addressed this in a simple devotional message delivered during the last annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can read a version of it here, or listen to the audio here.

Briefly, his main points are these:

First, if Jesus is the only way, we must be courageous. We must not flinch from telling others that Jesus is the only way, even if it means we are rejected by others. … If we live like Jesus is the only way, we will be courageous. We will testify to the truth in Christ. We will not trim our convictions to please others, but in our teaching, preaching, and writing we will be faithful to our Lord.

That leads me to the next point, which is related to the first one. Living like Jesus is the only way also means that we will be humble. Our Lord calls on us to courageously and boldly testify to the truth, but sometimes the way we testify to the truth detracts from the truth. … It is hard for people to hear the truth that Jesus is the only way if we speak with an arrogance that suggests that we are the only way. We must be firm in contending for the truth, but Paul also commands us to be gentle and patient and to proclaim the truth with gentleness to those who disbelieve.

. . .

My third point reveals itself when we draw attention to ourselves rather than the way, Jesus. We aren’t living as if Jesus is the only way if we focus on ourselves in conversations. Like everything else in life this is a matter of spiritual wisdom. There are no formulas here. If you have opportunity, it isn’t wrong to talk about your writing projects and speaking opportunities. In fact, not sharing what we are working on may be a form of false humility. But we aren’t living as if Jesus is the only way unless we obey Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

. . .

Finally, we live as if Jesus is the only way if we are thankful people. As Psalm 36 says, those who know God “feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Believers drink from the living water that Jesus gives us; we feast on the beauty of God; we find him to be our joy, our meat and drink; we are happy and thankful because of his love. We know that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ. Everything else is dung in comparison.

And you know what? People will know, no matter your personality, if God is your portion. That can’t be hidden. It will be evident. And they will be reminded by your joy and contentment that Jesus is the only way.

Amen!

All believers are not alike

We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another. We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own. The sheep in the Lord’s flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord’s garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by one Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy. But in minor matters they often differ widely. Let not one despise another on this account. There will be Martha’s and there will be Mary’s in the Church until the Lord comes again.

~ J.C. Ryle

(from his Expository Thought on the Gospel of Luke)

Greatness in Christ’s kingdom…

“Greatness in Christ’s kingdom is very different from what is usually counted eminence in the kingdoms of the world. Its elements are not only different, they are the reverse of those which constitute worldly greatness. Spiritual greatness consists in the combination of humility and laboriousness [service]. He is the greatest who is the ‘least of all,’ and the ‘servant of all.’ This principle has its highest verification in the King Himself. ‘I am among you as he that serves’ (John 13:27).”

~ Hugh Martin, writing about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13 (p. 96, in SIMON PETER Banner of Truth Trust, 1984).