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.