What Is Spirituality?

Tony Reinke gives clarification.

Are Mormons Christians?

Rob Bowman attempts to clarify.

Thanks to BTW for the reference.


Reading List for Pastors

Or thoughtful Christians...

From 9Marks and the Gospel Coalition.

Timothy McVeigh and Dorothea Day

John Piper on the beauty of being "Conquered by Christ."

Is Christianity Intellectual Suicide?

Listen to Mark Dever's answer.

Or download here.

The Modern Creed

By Steve Turner, English journalist
We believe in Marx, Freud and Darwin.
We believe everything is okay, as long as you don’t hurt anyone to the best of your definition of hurt and to your best definition of knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun. We believe that sodomy is okay.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything is getting better despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated and you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there is something in horoscopes, UFO’s, and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammad and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher, although we think basically his good morals were really bad.
We believe that all religions are the basically the same, at least the ones we read about. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation.
We believe that after death comes nothing because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing. If death is not the end, and if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsively heaven for all except perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Chingis Khan.
We believe in Masters and Johnson. What is selected is average, what’s average is normal, and what’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament. We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed. [The good guys] should beat their guns into tractors and [the bad guys] would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good-it’s only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of society; society’s the fault of condition; and conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him and reality will adapt accordingly; the universe will readjust and history will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth, except the truth that there is no absolute truth.
I prefer the Apostles'.


The Golden Compass

Al Mohler educates us to the books, movie, and a helpful Christian response.


God Magnifying God: The Debate

See the summary here:

The author concludes as follows:

Like cutting open the chest and uncovering a beating heart, to understand that our sovereign God acts in all things, and at all times, for His own glory gets at the very heart of God’s motivation. I simply cannot think of a truth more clearly presented throughout Scripture, nor can I think of a more radical worldview-changing truth.

God always acts for His own glory.

If we take our eyes off God’s magnifying of Himself in all things, we will be tempted. We’ll be tempted to downplay the demands of the Law (because we will no longer view the Law as God’s preservation of His glory). We will misunderstand the work of Christ on the Cross (that Christ met the high standards of the Father’s glory). We will misunderstand our life purpose (we do all things to bring glory to God as an act of union with God Himself). And we will misunderstand Scripture’s picture of eternal worship (we will find it odd that we circle around the throne of the Father, the throne of the Son, the river of the Spirit and sing worship forever).

Here’s the irony. To view God’s motives of grace and salvation as ends terminating in our good is to reinterpret the biblical God by our own narcissistic hermeneutics. Our greatest good and eternal joy both stand squarely on God’s motive of magnifying Himself.

In summary, if we take our eyes off God in his magnifying of Himself, we will fail to understand everything else. But most sadly, we will miss our greatest pleasure – to glorify God by enjoying Him forever!

Here is the center of Calvinism, what we call Reformed theology.

Church Planting and the Poor

From John Piper:

Today we focus on church planting and concern for the poor—eight observations on each subject. Let’s begin with observations that relate to church planting.1 Remember, by church planting, we mean starting new churches that are not part of Bethlehem. They share the same Elder Affirmation of Faith for the leaders, but organizationally, they are separate churches, not campuses.

Observations on Church Planting

1. There are 195 million non-churched people in America, making America one of the top four largest “unchurched” nations in the world.

2. In spite of the rise of mega-churches, no county in America has a greater church population than it did ten years ago.

3. During the last ten years, combined communicant membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5 percent (4,498,242), while the national population increased by 11.4 percent (24,153,000).

4. Each year 3,500 to 4,000 churches close their doors forever; yet only as many as 1,500 new churches are started.

5. There are now nearly 60 percent fewer churches per 10,000 persons than in 1920.

  • In 1920 27 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.
  • In 1950 17 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.
  • In 1996 11 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.

6. “Today, of the approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining.”

7. One American denomination recently found that 80% of its converts came to Christ in churches less than two years old.

8. Hence the claim of many leaders: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches” (Peter Wagner).

Observations on World Poverty

Then consider eight observations about world poverty.2

1. More than 1.5 billion people around the world live on less than a $1 a day.

2. More than one billion people do not have access to clean water.

3. Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.

4. More than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea.

5. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry every day, 300 million are children.

6. Of these 300 million children, only eight percent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 percent are suffering long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency.

7. Declining soil fertility, land degradation, and the AIDS pandemic have led to a 23 percent decrease in food production per capita in the last 25 years even though population has increased dramatically.

8. A woman living in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy. This compares with a 1 in 3,700 risk for a woman from North America.

These are issues—church planting and concern for the poor—that those who follow Jesus should not ignore. Yet they are amazingly easy to ignore in America.

To The Atheist and Bishop

John Piper responds to Christopher Hitchens and John Shelby Spong in his Thanksgiving meditation.


Preach Like A Gentleman

From Dever and Alexander's The Deliberate Church.
Instead of using all our powers to convict and change the sinner, while God stands back as a gentleman quietly waiting for the spiritual corpse, His declared spiritual enemy, to invite Him into his heart, let's preach the Gospel like gentlemen, trying to persuade but knowing we can't convert. Then let's stand back while God uses all of His powers to convict and convert and change the sinner. Then we'll see clearly just who has the power to call the dead to life.


Bono's Wave of Sorrow

Go here for a fun view into U2's upcoming release of a song from the Joshua Tree days.

I've always enjoyed Bono's perspective...and music of course.


"Is Tithing Biblical?"

The question:
The tithe is clearly taught in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it seems to be downplayed. Are those of us who give 10 percent of our income doing something not required?
D. A. Carson answers here.


"God's Quarterback"

Jemele Hill writes of John Kitna who "[every Monday] hosts a Bible study at his home that draws at least 30 teammates."


"Weaker Partner"

Heather Koerner tells her story:
Many modern day feminists have tried to argue that they offer me honor while Christianity offers me chattel. But they've got it backwards. I only have to look around to see it. The hook-up culture, the abortion culture, the depiction of women in media — they're all proof. It wouldn't take me 10 seconds flipping the television to see that — though Ali is gracious enough to see the positives in our culture — there is plenty of chattel-like behavior towards women.

As a seventh-grade girl, I was incensed that someone would treat me differently because I was a female. Now, though, I take comfort in the fact that God commands my Christian brothers to treat me differently. God's balance, of course, is perfect. He commands that I be respected, but also that I respect. He commands that I be honored, but also that I honor. He commands that I submit to authority, but also commands that authority to submit to Him.

He understands my heart. After all, He created it. He knows that it may be difficult for me to accept my husband's authority, so he reminds me in 1 Peter to do what is right and not to give way to fear.

In seventh grade, and probably for years later, I would have told you that all patriarchal societies were the same — their only goal to puff men up in their own power. But not anymore.

Yes, some societies live that way, and it's a shame. But that is not God's way. God has given my husband the right, and the responsibility, to lead our family. But simply because I submit to an authority — as, in fact, all of us have to do — God doesn't see me as inferior, as inadequate or unworthy. The true message of Christ is quite the opposite and it's a beautiful thing.

News of Persecution

Visit Compass Direct News for the latest on Christian persecution around the world.

Unreached Peoples

Consider again the mandate of Romans 15:
Romans 15.18For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21but as it is written,

"Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand."
And Matthew 28:
Matthew 28.18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Now have a look at the Joshua Project and their information on unreached people groups. Christians, the mandate is ours!


"Cultural Cowardice"

Consider Piper's thoughts on women in combat.


Elder Governance

Driscoll's lecture notes:

"The key to ecclesiology is proper theology."

Christians and Halloween

Consider Tim Challies' (thanks to Justin Taylor) and Al Mohler's thoughts on Halloween.

Tim encourages us to "leave the light on" while Mohler gives a great education.

In the same vein, Mohler also writes of how our culture can no longer speak honestly about evil. He says,
...postmoderns are more like Neville Chamberlain, trying to negotiate with evil, than like Winston Churchill, determined to oppose it by force when necessary.


Pray For Me

1. Consider Mark Driscoll's "Death By Ministry" series for some ministry advice. Here are some scary stats from Session Two:

2. How healthy are pastors and their families?

At our 2006 Reform and Resurge Conference in Seattle, my good friend Pastor Darrin Patrick from The Journey in Saint Louis (www.journeyon.net) spoke frankly of the burden that pastoral ministry is. He presented the following statistics, which he gathered from such organizations as Barna (www.barna.org), Maranatha Life (www.maranathalife.com) and Focus on the Family (www.family.org).


  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
Watch the lecture here.


"A Real Minister"

These challenging words are from Mark Dever's essay in Preaching the Cross.

God has always created his people by his Word. It's never been the other way around...

Consider the promotional mail pastors receive. The advertisements assure us success in ministry if we buy a particular product...Many people have an economic interest in making us feel guilty, inadequate, and unequipped. The way to avoid such a snare is by convincing ourselves of the priority and the sufficiency of the ministry of the Word adn to stake our whole service on that.

Do you see how important this is for the glory of God and the good of his people? Why, in so many of our churches, is it unusual to see someone giving their all to follow Christ, and growing in him? Is it because we allowed people who are in open unrepentant sin to continue on in our congregation, and so have diluted the witness, the fellowship? Why have we so neglected church discipline? Is it because we've not followed biblical instructions on leadership in the congregation, and we've also neglected the Bible's clear teaching on church discipline itself? Why have we neglected discipline? Is it because we don't teach about what church membership entails?

And why would that be? Because we haven't made it clear what it really means to be a Christian in the first place? And why would that be? Because we've misunderstood the gospel? How could that be? Because we've misunderstood the Bible? And why would that be the case? Because we've had pastors who - with the best of motives - have given themselves to everything in the world before giving themselves to the study and preaching of the Word! We've spent more time reading our email than our Bible.


Quality Rather Than Quantity

Here's an excerpt from a Tozer daily devotional sent to me from a great friend:
Failure and Success: Quantity Rather Than Quality

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness - God is witness. -1 Thessalonians 2:4-5

Time may show that one of the greatest weaknesses in our modern civilization has been the acceptance of quantity rather than quality as the goal after which to strive....

Christianity is resting under the blight of degraded values. And it all stems from a too-eager desire to impress, to gain fleeting attention, to appear well in comparison with some world-beater who happens for the time to have the ear or the eye of the public.

This is so foreign to the Scriptures that we wonder how Bible-loving Christians can be deceived by it. The Word of God ignores size and quantity and lays all its stress upon quality. Christ, more than any other man, was followed by the crowds, yet after giving them such help as they were able to receive, He quietly turned from them and deposited His enduring truths in the
breasts of His chosen 12....

Pastors and churches in our hectic times are harassed by the temptation to seek size at any cost and to secure by inflation what they cannot gain by legitimate growth. The mixed multitude cries for quantity and will not forgive a minister who insists upon solid values and permanence. Many a man of God is being subjected to cruel pressure by the ill-taught members of his flock who scorn his slow methods and demand quick results and a popular
following regardless of quality.

"Lord, I'm concerned this morning for pastors who are huge successes in Your eyes-because of their faithful, quality-oriented service-but who see themselves as failures because the 'quantity' doesn't seem to come. Open our eyes, Lord, to evaluate our success or failure by Your standards, and be encouraged. Amen."



John Paul in Flames

Two incredible statements:

1. The Vatican news station has reported a visit from John Paul. "The Daily Mail" reports:

Service director Jarek Cielecki, a Polish priest and close friend of John Paul II, travelled to Poland after hearing an onlooker had photographed the image. Father Cielecki said he was convinced the picture showed the former pontiff.
"You can see the image of a person in the flames and I think it is the servant of God, Pope John Paul II," he said.

2. In response, "Shirley" claims,
Each to their own. Don't condemn people's beliefs. If this "vision" is what gives some people comfort, then that is their business.
Superstitious, Christ-less "faith" often begets real faith being pushed into the category of "comfort-myth." The truths of Scripture are not considered real knowledge, but reality-less stories to comfort the weak that are best left to personal opinion and preference.


Dating Jesus

It's not what you think.

Dr. Kostenberger surveys the historical data for the dates of Jesus' birth and death.


Emergent Church From the Inside

Listen to Mark Driscoll's message at SBTS for a fascinating history, humble confession, and insightful critique.

The Relevance of Indwelling Sin

The "Editor's Note" opening John Owen's Sin and Temptation; The Challenge to Personal Godliness has this:
Our times have been called the "me generation" because of the psychological cult of self-fulfillment and its accompanying narcisism. We live in a society that is deaf to a well-known psychologist's question, "Whatever happened to sin?" O Herbert Mowrer has written candidly about this:

"For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin adn moral accountability as a great incubus, and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be 'free' in this sense, that is to have the excuse of being 'sick' rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also being lost."

We are beginning to see once more that there can be no recovery of self-realization...without the recovery of moral responsibility.
It feels loving to pronounce the downtrodden victims. But with the effort at compassion we may have stolen the great hope of recovery: repentance and responsibility.


The Road is Hard

This is the main road in south Sudan - where my in-laws are missionaries. As one pilot put it, this is strong apology for AIM Air.

Pray for our missionaries!


How to Read Those Hard Psalms

The following is from Justin Taylor:

I recently saw that Peter Leithart referred to John Day's Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us about Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism as the definitive treatment on the imprecatory psalms, and also wrote that the book was "balanced, meticulous, and convincing."

Here are a few notes I took on some of the book's major principles:

Day's Thesis

“In circumstances of sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression, it has always been appropriate for a believer to utter imprecations against enemies or to appeal for the onslaught of divine vengeance. In certain instances today, appeals to God for his curse or vengeance are fitting” (pp. 15-16). “It is legitimate at times for God’s present people to utter prayers of imprecation or pleas for divine vengeance—like those in the psalms—against the recalcitrant enemies of God and his people. Such expression is consistent with the ethics of the Old Testament and finds corresponding echo in the New” (p. 109).

Three Groups of Imprecatory Psalms

1. Imprecation against societal enemy (58; 94)
2. Imprecation against nation or community (68; 74; 79; 83; 129; 137)
3. Imprecation against personal enemy (5; 6; 7; 9; 10; 17; 28; 31; 35; 40; 52; 54; 55; 56; 59; 69; 70; 71; 104; 109; 139; 140; 141; 143)

Three Major Solutions

1. Imprecatory psalms express evil emotions that should be suppressed or confessed as sin (C. S. Lewis, Walter Brueggemann).
2. They are utterances consonant with old covenant morality but inconsistent with new covenant ethics (Roy Zuck, J. Carl Laney, Meredith Kline).
3. Such words may be appropriately spoken only by Christ in relation to his work on the cross and only by his followers through him (James Adams, Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Why These Solutions Are Unsatisfactory

1. The first position fails to adequately account for the imprecatory psalms being inspired by God and the profusion of imprecations in the psalms, which were incorporated in the canon. It also does not sufficiently address the piety of the psalmists and their ethical rationale, the legitimacy of their utterance in light of their OT theological foundations, and the presence of similar imprecations in the NT.

2. The second position overly restricts the definition of love and minimizes the fundamental ethical continuity between the testaments in the outworking of progressive revelation. It does not sufficiently account for the enduring validity of the Abrahamic promise or the presence of personalized imprecations in the NT.

3. The third position overstates David’s position and function as a type of Christ, understates the reality of the historical situations that evoke the utterances, and evades the problem that David did not write all of the imprecatory psalms, let alone the other imprecations in Scripture.

In sum, these three perspectives all share the same fatal flaw: “each explanation ends up distancing the imprecatory psalms from legitimate prayers of God’s people today. This distance is fundamentally foreign to the use of the psalms as they were passed down through history. Indeed, the Psalter in its entirety was incorporated into the Christian canon with the tacit affirmation that it remained a book of worship for God’s people” (p. 35).

Foundations for Imprecation

The foundations for imprecation come most notably from:

1. The promise of divine vengeance in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:1-43).

2. The principle of divine justice in the lex talionis (e.g., Deut. 19:16-21)

3. The promise of divine cursing in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:2-3).

How Can It Be Right for Christians to Cry Out for Divine Vengeance and Violence, as in the Imprecatory Psalms?

1. The vengeance appealed for is not personally enacted. Rather, God is called upon to be the Avenger.

2. This appeal is based upon the covenant promises of God, most notable of which are “He who curses you, I will curse” (Gen. 12:30, and “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Deut. 32:35). If God has so promised, then it would not seem wrong for his people to petition him (even passionately) to fulfill these promises.

3. Both testaments record examples of God’s people on earth calling down curses or crying for vengeance. Yet there is no literary or theological intimation of divine disapproval over such sentiments being expressed. Indeed, the implication is that, in its appropriate place, such utterances are commendable (cf. the imprecatory psalms and the Pauline and Petrine curses of Gal. 1:8-9 and Acts 8:20).

4. Scripture further records an instance in which God’s people in heaven, where there is no sin, cry out for divine vengeance and are comforted by the assurance of its impending enactment (Rev. 6:9-11). Since these martyred saints are perfected, their entreaty would presumably be “right.”

New Testament

The NT data speaks in two directions:

1. The ethic of enemy-love and blessing is indeed intensified, and the implications of that ethic are more extensively explored and applied.

2. The presence of justified imprecation also insists that, in some fashion, the utterance of imprecation remains allowable within this elevated ethic of enemy-love and blessing, as it did in the imprecatory psalms.

In the Scriptures of both testaments two reactions toward enmity are given:

1. The characteristic virtue of love shown by God and his people

2. The other ethical response is for extreme instances, used when God’s people face sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression.

Drive-through church

Ouch! Thanks, Ed.

The Best Teacher For Right Living

John Calvin wrote (Institutes, 41)

"For this sense of the divine perfections is the proper master to teach us piety, out of which religion springs. By piety I mean that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires. For until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that naught is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity."

When we love holiness (God) we will live holiness (a godly life).


Wimpy Christians

"Wimpy worldviews produce wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians will not survive the days that are coming. It would be a piece of cake to pastor a church and produce wimpy Christians. Just constantly coddle you; do a little survey every week about what you want to hear and then tell you… Producing wimpy Christians is easy. You make money at it. Get a big church. That’s not what I’m called to do. I want to produce Christians who stand in the last day! …Wimpy Christians won’t last! And wimpy worldviews produce wimpy Christians."

This quote is from John Piper's sermon, "The Fatal Disobedience of Adam and the Triumphant Obedience of Christ". This sermon is part of the fabulous series, "Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ."

Find it all (so far) here:

All Things Were Created Through Him and for Him
Colossians 1:9-20
August 12, 2007

The Fall of Satan and the Victory of Christ
Genesis 3:1-15
August 19, 2007

The Fatal Disobedience of Adam and the Triumphant Obedience of Christ
Romans 5:12-21
August 26, 2007

The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ
Genesis 11:1-9
September 2, 2007

The Sale of Joseph and the Son of God
Genesis 37:1-36
September 9, 2007


What Did Jesus Believe About Scripture?

Thoughts from J. P. Moreland.

Fake Holiness

Our church is enjoying Bridges' Pursuit of Holiness. It is a rich and helpful book - we have the 2006 editions.

On the very first page are two promos. The second reads as follows:

"Jerry Bridges gives timeless insight into a timeless problem: in our own pursuit of holiness, it's easy to end up in the ditch of legalism on one side of the road or lethargy on the other. The Pursuit of Holiness has helped so many believers navigate the tricky but vitally important road to personal holiness. The book should be on every Christian leader's shelf."

This is a fine and true statement.

The author? Ted Haggard. Former mega-pastor and president of evangelicals. And you probably know what he's been up to of late...massive unholiness to say the least.

Though it is embarrassing, I'm glad that name and quote are on that first page in my book on holiness. It gives me strong warning to remember that fake holiness is easy - and that it lurks in my heart. It causes me to tremble that my holiness might not only be of the bookshelf and not of the heart. And it pleads with me to "Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12.14)

To The King of France

Nuggets from John Calvin's letter to the King of France (as found in the prelude to the Institutes)

The Mark of Sound Doctrine:

"But the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God."

The Future of Christ's Church:

"The Church of Christ assuredly has lived, and will live, as long as Christ shall reign at the right hand of the Father. By his hand it is sustained, by his protection, defended, by his mighty power preserved in safety."

The Characteristic of True Government:

“The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but of a robber.”


"God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul"

Thanks to the Duke of Data for the reminder...

From Desiring God:

God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul, Part 1
2001 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
January 29, 2001
David Powlison
Listen | Download

God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul, Part 2
2000 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
January 30, 2001
David Powlison

God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul, Part 3
2001 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
January 30, 2001
David Powlison

God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul, Panel Discussion
2001 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
January 31, 2001

God, Psychology, and Christian Care of the Soul, Greg Livingstone
2001 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
January 31, 2001
Greg Livingstone


Getting Ready For Church

Here's a list of 10 things you can do to get ready for worship!

"Take Heed to How You Hear!"

Removing Impediments to Repentance

In looking forward to our church's prayer of repentance service this Sunday evening, I'm considering the great Puritan Thomas Watson's thoughts on the entrapments that hold us back from the great grace of repentance.

1. When we do not understand that we need repentance.
We say with the Laodicean's, "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (Rev. 3.17)

2. When we see repentance as easy.
This is a fire-insurance mentality, like when a child claims, "I said I was sorry!" while the hard heart remains. The root of sin is our wretched desires, and that root is not dug out easily.

3. When we presume on God's mercy.
Similar to #2, this thinking forgets Psalm 130.4: "
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared." Repentance means change.

4. When we are too lazy to repent.
In Watson's words, "They had rather go sleeping to hell than weeping to heaven." In this mindset, the heart-searching of repentance seems tedious and not worth the effort.

5. When we still enjoy our sin.
Watson again: "In true repentance there must be a grieving for sin, but how can one grieve for that which he loves?"

6. When repentance seems like a drag.
Watson: "[Repentance] does not crucify but clarify our joy, and takes it off from the fulsome lees of sin." What are "fulsome lees": fulsome - excessive flattery; lees - the bad wine at the bottom of the barrel. In other words, sin isn't that great, but is rather the poison that keeps us from the true and lasting joys of the gospel.

7. When we are despondent and without hope.
This is the mind that claims, "I am too bad; God will not forgive." Watson reminds, "God counts His mercy His glory." Be reminded, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1.9)

8. When we assume that God will not punish sin.
We find this attitude in Psalm 10.11, "He says in his heart, "God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it." Watson says, "because [God] forbears to punish they forbear to repent." No fear of the Lord, no repentance.

9. When we fear what others will think of our repentance.
Watson is refreshingly clear: "If you cannot bear a reproach for religion, never call yourself a Christian." As I read this morning in Isaiah 8, "2 Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary..."

10. When we have an immoderate love of the world.
Like those Jesus described in Luke 14.18-19, our concerns for the world numb any concern for our soul. And that is dangerous.

May God remove the obstacles!


Visiting An Old Friend

I don't really know John Piper, and he certainly doesn't know me, but nonetheless I consider him a dear friend. I love him because, through his books, sermons, and life, God has more fully revealed Himself to me and given me more joy in Him. That is a priceless service.

I paid a visit to an old friend this morning - here's a few nuggets from the beginning of the 2003 edition of Desiring God.

"God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy" - Jeremy Taylor

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." - Nehemiah (8.10)

"May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives." - Richard Baxter

"The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks." - Matthew Henry

"It is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in Him." - John Piper

"There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." - Blaise Pascal

"God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed. Praise is not an alternative to joy, but the expression of joy. Not to enjoy God is to dishonor Him." - John Piper

"I find in the Bible a divine command to be a pleasure-seeker - that is, to forsake the two-bit, low-yield, short-term, never-satisfying, person-destroying, God-belittling pleasures of the world and to sell everything 'with joy' (Mt. 13.44) in order to have the kingdom of heaven and the 'enter in to the joy of your master' (Mt. 25.21, 23)." - John Piper

The Christian's Call to Endure in Suffering

Ray Van Neste posts quotes from the new book on Hercules Collins edited by Steve Weaver and Michael Haykin.

"For, as a tree is known by his fruit, so is a Christian by a patient wearing [of] Christ’s cross. This will and hath convinced an adversary, when a bare profession will not. And though a man should make a great profession, or preach with great demonstration of truth, . . . an unsuitable living, or a sinful declining [of] sufferings, may greatly hinder the belief of the truth.” 36

“How much of the presence of Christ have they had to enable them to bear the cross quietly, patiently, contentedly, not like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. And some cannot boast of raptures and ecstasies, yet they have cause to bless God for making good that promise to them, John 16:33, that as in the world they have tribulation, so in Christ peace.” 51

On Preaching


"The pulpit has become dishonored; it is esteemed as being of very little worth and of no esteem. Ah! we must always maintain the dignity of the pulpit. I hold that it is the Thermopylae of Christendom; it is here that the battle must be fought between right and wrong; not so much with the pen, valuable as that is as an assistant, as with the living voice of earnest men, 'contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.'"

Thanks to Ray Van Neste and Kairos Journal.

Another Inconvenient Truth

"A Tale of Two Houses"


Our Superstitions

What do an airline, softball-player, and missionary have in common?

Officials at Nepal Airlines have recently sacrificed some goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god. This will, it is hoped, help with some of their recent technical problems.

One of my buddies has a compulsive need to throw the ball around infield the same way at the same time for good luck.

A missionary with whom I was recently in dialog believes that if we are sick or in poverty, it is because we do not have enough faith.

Hindus, an agnostic, and a Christian: what is this thing they have in common? I think they are superstitious. What's behind this? I wonder if it isn't a view of God (gods, the force, whatever) that sees "Him" as 1) flighty and 2) manipulatable.

1. "God might change..." Under this belief, the higher power is not consistent or trustworthy. He may be kind for awhile, or He may become unruly later. We don't really know.

2. Therefore we must do whatever we can to keep Him appeased. Repeat the montra, kill a goat, prove the strength of our "faith". In the end, the emphasis is on our deeds that manipulate or change God's thoughts of us and goal for us.

This kind of thinking is destructive - and also untrue.

I am thankful that the true God is not like that. The God of the Bible is a rock: unchanging and utterly trustworthy. He is the One who atones for us.

The God of the Bible is also sovereign: He is not dependent on us and our rites, but we on Him and His grace. I need not be fearfully superstitious when "all things work for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8.28) and "from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory!" (Rom. 11.33-36)

In trouble, sickness, and sword, let us rest in our rock.


One Incredible Sermon on Sovereignty

This is humbling and inspiring. Would that we were all so confident and astute. What was I complaining about again?

Thanks to Justin Taylor for the heads-up.


More Vigorous

It is said than an enemy of the great British abalishonist William Wilberforce once quipped,

"It is necessary to watch him as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that enthusiastic spirit which, so far from yielding grows more vigorous from blows."

And to add the words of Ajith Fernando,

“...the happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who aren’t afraid of their problems.”

May we be so steadfast...



Three-Dollar Gospel

Ray Van Neste has this satirical quote from D. A. Carson's Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians:

Enjoy...and be convicted...

“I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please.”


"Pastors, Pragmatism, Pleasure, and Pride"

Timely instruction from Pastor John.

He writes in part:

"Pray for us concerning these three P’s: The idolatry of pragmatism that ruins the church; the pleasure in unrighteousness that refuses to love the truth; and the pride of being strong that leads to destruction."


Kinds of Suffering

Between Two Worlds has this:

"In this article Walter Kaiser identifies eight kinds of suffering
  • retributive suffering, caused by sin and disobedience to God
  • educational or disciplinary suffering as in Proverbs 3:11 or Hebrews 12:5-6;
  • vicarious suffering, as in the case of our Lord's death on the cross;
  • empathetic suffering, where one person's grief affects many others, as Isaiah 63:9 illustrates;
  • evidential or testimonial suffering, as in the first two chapters of Job;
  • doxological suffering for the glory of God, as in the man born blind in John 9;
  • revelational suffering, as in the case of the prophet Hosea's wife abandoning him; and
  • apocalyptic or eschatological suffering that will come at the end of this age.
One of his points is that the error of Job's friends was in reducing all suffering to "retributive suffering" instead of recognizing that there are other forms."


Enabling Adoption

One of the greatest pictures of the gospel is adoption (Ephesians 1.3-10).

Justin Taylor has some great resources for how to finance one.


Brief Thoughts on Christians Loving Homosexuals...

Or anyone, for that matter.

I felt the need to say it plainly (in order accompany previous posts), and hope to be simple (it's a blog) without being too simplistic.

1. Christians are to love homosexuals.
Lets get this straight: any follower of Jesus is to love everyone, including their neighbor and their enemy who persecutes them. This comes from the top down - commanded by our righteous King. And it isn't to be toleration - it is to be love. Supernatural, gospel-driven love.

2. Christians are to be humble.
I have no righteousness of my own, and neither do you. When talking about sin, I am the first in line. I have sinned grievously against a holy God, and I deserve His endless wrath. Salvation is given freely by grace to the ungodly. Let us never forget that. And may the way we communicate reflect that.

3. Christians are to judge themselves.
I mean this specifically in regards to the church. Consider 1 Corinthians 5.9-13. We are often better at judging the morals of those outside the fellowship while taking it easy on ourselves. It ought to be the other way around.

4. Real love is God-centered and Bible-honoring.
God is what we need. God is what we are made for. God's Word is our authority. Any love that falls short of that truth, motivation, and expression is, in the end, less than love. To humbly warn someone that their sinful desires and behavior will kill them is loving. To tell someone the beautiful, life-changing truth of the gospel is loving. To befriend them and endure with them is loving.

Summary: Faithful Christians will be hated for the truth they live and proclaim. That's good - and Jesus told us that. Christians are often hated for a lack of love and humility. That's bad, and though it might feel like righteousness points, is wicked sin.

Love the Word. Love the Gospel. Love people with Word-Truth and Gospel-Action. I know, I know, easier said than done. Easier blogged than obeyed. But I think it our calling as Christians.

No Creed? Then Chaos

See Al Mohler's thoughts on the events surrounding the first openly homosexual bishop of the Episcopal Church.

"Implications for Christian Sexuality"

Consider Dr. Samuel Hensley's thoughts on theology, science, and homosexuality.


Dog-Fighting and Choice

I like to listen to talk radio while I'm driving, and of late the sports conversation is all about Michael Vick and his alleged dog-fighting. I'm no fan of dog-fighting. I find it vicious and immature. Proverbs 12.10 says it best: "Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel." Dog-fighting doesn't seem to me to be righteous.

However, I can't remember a time of hearing more moralist monologues from talk-show hosts whose specialty is sports. Dog-fighting is as the unforgivable sin to them, and the idea of innocent canines being torn to pieces or brutally done away with when they no longer have value is anathema.

I have to wonder, what would it be like if a caller asked, "But don't those dogs belong to Michael Vick? Didn't he buy them? Aren't they on his property? Doesn't he have the right to do with them as he pleases? Shouldn't he be able to get rid of them in the way he sees fit when they no longer have any value to him?"

I would guess that the host's response would be an impassioned proclamation of the rights and value of the dogs, and the responsibility of an owner to be humane and compassionate...and yet it would not be presumptuous to believe that some of these same radio hosts are pro-choice (they often allude to their political and moral views).

There's a new pro-choice billboard advertising a storage company in NYC (complete with ominous hangar). It reads, "Her right to choose is shrinking as fast as your closet space." Therein is the pro-abortion argument. Babies have their value and usefulness determined by the desires of their mother, and that value is often determined to be less than closet space.

You can't help but be confused by a culture that mourns the injustice of dog-fighting while systematically killing babies in no less a brutal manner - and with factory-like efficiency. Strong sectors of our culture believe dog-fighting to be wrong because it infringes upon the rights and value of a dog (I'm sympathetic) while at the same time insisting upon legal (even state-funded!) abortion because evidently human children have no rights (an outrage). They apparently believe that a person cannot by her choice determine the value and end of a dog, but can by her choice determine the value and end of a human child, a person.

Presumably they would argue that a dog owner should take responsibility to care for the dog in a humane way or not have dogs at all. And yet they would argue in essence for sex without responsibility, having little concern for treating human babies in a humane way, like giving them up for adoption instead of murdering them.

I'd like to say I don't get it, but I think I do. This is the essence of our wicked, sinful hearts. Just as with slavery, gossip, and myriads of other sins, we evil humans like to subvert the authority of God and claim it for ourselves; we like to determine the value of other people according to our preferences and convenience. Even if it comes to advocating for the murder of babies while fighting for the rights of dogs.


Doctrine of Singleness

We'll probably have to admit that a meaningful, biblical doctrine of singleness is not the most common proclamation in the church. I'll confess that I haven't yet specifically addressed it from my pulpit. And as we're all single for part of our lives, and some of us are single for most or all of our lives, the truth on the matter desperately needs to be known. I'm looking forward to the time when I am honored to proclaim it at my church. For now, here are two helpful sermons on the matter from John Piper:

Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters

Marriage, Singleness, and the Christian Virtue of Hospitality


What's The Goal of Debate?

As someone isn't often lacking for passion in debate, I have had to learn (and am still learning) to continually be asking myself this question: "What is my goal in this debate?"

The goal of my life and hopefully of my church, as I often state it, is to glorify Jesus Christ. I want to love Him above all else and make Him look good to the world. It is true that at some point, loving and living for Jesus Christ - especially as a pastor - will mean that I engage in some form of debate on His behalf. Whether it is the reality of the resurrection or an inner-church struggle on a doctrinal issue, the New Testament is plain in stating that we will have to "contend for the faith."

But what is the goal in that debating? Here is reality as I see it: as wicked sinners it is almost inevitable that EGO will slime its way into our motivation and method in debate; revealing itself in poor logic, name-calling, and a general sense of malice.

Is the goal of a debate to win? I suppose that depends on how we define "winning." Is it a "win" to make the other person look stupid and to make ourselves look smart? Is it to feel dominant and powerful? Is it to shame the other?

If my goal is truly to glorify the Lord Jesus in my debate, my greatest goal will be to have, in as much at it is up to me, my "opponent" and "audience" seeing the truth and beauty of the gospel as expressed in Scripture and moving towards glorifying Jesus Christ in their own hearts and lives.

I am thankful that the Apostle Paul spoke to this kind of thing in 2 Timothy 4. He wrote,

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

A few observations:

1. We must argue for the pure gospel in whatever forum is required. We are to correct our opponents. It is not loving to allow for false doctrine for the sake of a semblance of "peace." If they are advocating some sort of false gospel they are advocating the devil.

2. We must argue with kindness, patience, and gentleness. Jesus did command us to love our enemies. Presumably, they ought to be able to tell that we love them. If I had my druthers, I would want an "opponent" who left disagreeing with me to think, "I hate what he thinks, but I now see why he thinks it, appreciate his passion for it...and he sure was a nice guy."

3. We must argue humbly. There is no room for self-righteousness in the Christian. And there is no benefit in overestimating our skills. The hope Paul gave to Timothy was, "perhaps God will grant repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." This means that if we know the truth, it is only because God was gracious to us. If others come to know the truth through our correction, it will only be because God was gracious to us and them. That kind of humility needs to come through in our debating. "Were not for grace so would I be."

I do think we ought to debate for pure gospel on a public forum whenever necessary. But I also tremble at the danger that unbelievers will observe our arguments, see malice and pride, and be further repulsed at the gospel of our Lord. When that happens, we have not achieved our goal of glorifying Christ. Rather, we have shot ourselves in the foot with our love for self.

Let's correct our opponents. But let's do so with obvious love and humility so that, whether we win or lose the argument, we will have glorified the Lord Jesus. That's the real victory anyway.


Baby Bust

See Mohler's fascinating post:

Here's an excerpt:

"...European nations will soon face the reality of fast-falling population levels -- levels that will threaten social stability, economic security, and a host of other social goods. Economic security depends upon a stable or growing population. But economic security is not the only issue at stake -- not by a long shot. Many observers believe that growing Muslim birth rates and immigration rates, coupled with a decline in the Christian population, will mean an Islamic future for Europe.

A number of very capable scholars have documented this reality. What Noah Pollak of Azure adds to the picture is serious attention to the question of why people decide not to have children."

Hit the link for more.


All-Star Reading for Family Life

These four books will serve you very well towards glorifying God in marriage and family. Read them!

1. When Sinners Say "I Do": Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, by Dave Harvey.

2. The Complete Husband, by Lou Priolo.

3. Feminine Appeal, by Carolyn Mahaney.

4. Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp.

Holy Sermons!

I'm doing some work on the holiness of God, and have found R.C. Sproul's 3 sermons on the topic from Desiring God's 2007 Pastor's Conference to be outstanding, moving, and humbling.

Enjoy, "The Holiness of God", "The Holiness of Christ", and "Holiness and Justice" here.


What Is Good Preaching?

Pastor Erik has some thoughts on the matter. He begins with,

"I get the pastor trade journal, Leadership. I don't know why I read it. It usually only causes me angst over state of the evangelical church and the evangelical pastorate. I always mutter to myself that I need to read it to 'keep up' and 'keep current' or some such nonsense. And it is nonsense. Hey Pastors- you want to keep current? Read 2 Timothy 4: 1-5. Now, memorize it. Then, do it. Please. We need more 'hip' and 'current' pastors like we need more infomercials."

Hit the link for the rest of the story.

God Is Great

From Hugh Hewitt:

"Christopher Hitchens' god Is Not Great continues to sell and sell and sell, and Mr. Hitchens continues to take on all comers in conversation.

The Great God debate, Part 1, featured Hitchens opposite theologian, author and blogger Dr. Mark D. Roberts. (Transcript here. The audio of hour 1 is here, hour 2 here, and hour 3 here.) That debate focused primarily on the reliability of the New Testament. Dr. Roberts, author most recently of Can We Trust The Gospels?, has since posted extensively on the Hitchens book.

Part two of this series of conversations arrives today in the first two hours of the program, as Professor David Allen White of the U.S. Naval Academy squares off with Hitchens on the subjects of civilization's debt to Christianity and whether science undermines faith or the gaps in science undergird belief. Professor White's most recent book, The Horn Of The Unicorn, is about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre."


Football Season is Coming...

And that is why it is so important that we remember the eternal importance of our "affections."

Sam Storms, in Signs of the Spirit; An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' 'Religious Affections' proclaims,

"...how common it is among men 'that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, that in [Christ]! In things which concern men's worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity.

But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small."

May the Spirit move, may we repent, may God forgive, and may we 'hunger and first for righteousness that we might be filled'! And may we have infinitely more zeal for Jesus than we do for football...

Death Culture Logic

See Al Mohler's thoughts regarding the disabled and our "culture of death."

He summarizes, "When death is claimed as a right, it will soon become a duty."

And that is scary.


You Can Learn A Lot From An Atheist

Here's a post from the atheist blog, The Friendly Atheist:

The Top 5 Televange-List

What would you want them to say about you?

The Scriptures For Our Kids

Between Two Worlds had this post:

Ray Van Neste posts some notes from a recent seminar he led on Bible materials for children, which includes a helpful list of recommended resources.

This is My Uncle

Thanks to the Duke of Data:

Federal Times: Scott Redd - Imagination, collaboration keys to counterterrorism

M. Scott Mahaskey/ Staff



When you love someone you want the best for them. When you love someone, you also fear the worst happening and fight to protect them. So what's the worst? It isn't car wrecks or cancer.

The worst that could happen is that the sinful desires which, as Peter wrote, “wage war against our souls” (1 Peter 2.11) would win that war against our souls. The worst thing ever would be that grace would no longer sound amazing to us, that we would no longer “tremble at God’s word” (Isaiah 66.2), and that Jesus Christ would no longer look beautiful and glorious. The worst that could happen would be that we would lose our faith in Jesus Christ and be satisfied instead with the things of this world.

We have an enemy. It wants to claim our lives and destroy us. And by the way, our ultimate enemy is NOT Satan. The worst thing Satan can do to us is influence us to sin. Our worst enemy resides within us: it is our sinful desires. It is our tendency towards pride, insecurity, distrust of God, selfishness, greed, covetousness, lust, gossip, and the allurements of the world.

Our great battle, our great calling, our great goal, and our great purpose is to fight sin. As Paul insists in Romans 8.13, “…if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Therefore we are mercifully commanded in Colossians 3.5 to, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” This is the truth about Christians: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5.24)

The author of the book of Hebrews lovingly reminds us, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3.12)

He’s warning us! He’s warning us about being content and thinking that we have our sin under control! He’s warning us that we could fall away from God unless we take care; take action, work, fight our sin! As the great theologian John Owen wrote, “We must be about the business of killing sin, or sin will be killing us.”

It is here that you might answer, “But I thought that Christians can’t lose their salvation!”
And you’re right – they can’t. Romans 8.30 insists, “And those whom [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Salvation is sure for God’s people from start to finish.

We then ask, “Then why these texts warning us about losing our salvation?” That is a great question – why did God include passages of warning for His people if their salvation is sure? Here is the answer – God’s salvation is not a mathematical equation or a computer program. God’s salvation involves the changed hearts, desires, and lifestyles of real people. God’s salvation involves hearts that are changed to love Him and obey Him and fight against the sin that motivate them to do otherwise. Therein, passages of warning are mercifully included in Scripture because those whose hearts God has changed will respond to them. God’s people, the chosen and the saved, will be moved by such passages of warning to repent of their, to fight sin, and turn to the cross. Passages of warning are a gift from above. They keep us from being lazy and comfortable when we are called to fight.

So how do we fight our sin? Scripture speaks of many ways. But the author of Hebrews has something specific in mind. In verse 13 of chapter 3, immediately following his gracious warning, he writes, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

This is big. Instead of falling away from our God, we are to exhort one another on a regular basis. To exhort is to “strongly encourage or urge someone to do something.” God is telling us here that an antidote to sin is regular encouragement and urging from other Christians. We see again just how deeply we need one another. In a way, our salvation depends upon our deep involvement in one another’s lives.

Why do we need one another in the fight against sin? We saw it the answer in verse 13. The answer is that sin is deceitful. Our sin lies – it looks good, but isn’t. It looks contained, but rumbles beneath the surface. It is like quicksand; the ground looks fine but sucks you down to your death. We need others because sin is like the ketchup smeared all over your chin. You think you look good out there on the town, but the rest of us know better. We need one another because sin is deceitful. We can’t see it on our own because our sin deceives us. We need others to exhort us, and we need to rightly exhort others. As the Psalmist wrote in 141.5, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”

Let's love one another and protect one another. That means fighting sin. That means exhorting others, and it means being exhorted.

Bad News for Churches and Parents

In his WORLD Magazine article, Gene Veith reports, "Christian parents and churches need to face up to a problem long hidden in the dark: Evangelical teenagers are just as sexually active as their non-Christian friends."

This reminds us again of the dangerous sin of assumption - assuming that because our kids are going to church that they understand, love, and live the faith. We've got to know and pastor their hearts!


The Cravings in Our Conflict

The following is an enlightening excerpt from C.J. Mahaney's article, "Cravings and Conflict":

"The truth that “cravings underlie conflicts” was vividly displayed in my own life, when I arrived home one evening from work. My family was gathering for dinner, and hugs and kisses and “I love yous” were given all around. Carolyn walked by me on her way to the table with some food and kindly mentioned in passing that I had failed to tell her about a calendar commitment I made for both of us.

There was nothing sinful, either in her words or tone, but my response was immediate: “I did tell you about it.” Walking past me back into the kitchen, she said, with a smile, “I don’t think so.” Still civil, but a bit more firmly, I insisted that I had indeed informed her of this commitment.

After dinner, when Carolyn and I were alone, she humbly appealed: “Lately, I feel as if you have not been keeping me informed of various plans like you usually do.”

I wish I could tell you that I responded with humility. I wish I had heard her out and then humbly evaluated her critique, appropriately suspicious of my own heart and eager to learn from her observations. But I did not. Instead I began to question her, and rather quickly my approach came to resemble that of a prosecuting attorney. I was being misrepresented and this injustice must be righted.

Carolyn was merely trying to preserve intimacy and communication in our marriage, but in my pride I quickly became angry. Before long I had moved beyond disagreement and (since no one else was honoring me) begun to honor myself. I actually said something like, “Dear, it’s tough not to admire how effective a communicator I have been in our marriage.” I followed this up with A Brief History of Our Marriage According to C.J., featuring a number of illustrations portraying me as possibly the most communicative husband of all time. And although she expressed appreciation for what I had done in the past, Carolyn was not persuaded.

My arrogance was pronounced and my anger was escalating; but Carolyn chose to serve and not sin. In my prideful state, that was simply unacceptable. So to my shame, I made several remarks intended to provoke her to join my sinful party. I wanted her to have something to confess as well. But Carolyn wasn’t playing my game, and we ended the conversation in disagreement.

Did I then go to another room, fall to my knees, open my Bible to James 4, and repent? No, I went to our bedroom, sat down, opened my new Sports Illustrated, and dove in. But I wasn’t reading the articles. I was imagining my wife coming into the room and saying, “Love, you really are most incredible husband in all of world history. How could I have possibly criticized you in any way? Will you please forgive me?”

That’s when God, in his kindness, began to convict me. I began to see that I had brought cravings right in the front door with me that evening—cravings for my home to be primarily (if not exclusively) a place of refuge and relaxation, rather than a context in which to serve. I wanted a hassle-free evening. I wanted to be lavished with attention, affection and approval. And I’d received correction instead.

My passions were warring within me, and when they weren’t satisfied, what did I do? Because I coveted and could not obtain, I fought and quarreled. Because I desired and did not have, I sought to drag my patient, loving wife into the mire with me. In the final analysis, I was railing against God and his purposes in my life for that evening.

When the Holy Spirit clarified my sinful cravings, I saw not only that the situation was more serious than I had thought—I saw where the source and cause of this conflict truly resided. It wasn’t complicated. The problem was within me!"

I'm thankful to C.J. for his confession and teaching therein, and wishing that I could do a better job at following suit!


From Desiring God:

Dear Friends,

Many of you have seen the news of the Freeway Bridge collapse a mile from the Desiring God office. Our video team went down to the scene within hours. We have combined the footage with a sermon excerpt by John Piper. You can see the video at our blog.

If you think others might find it helpful please send them a link to the video.

You can also read John Piper's response "Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed."