My Opinions Won’t Save Me

Today I was reading in Steven Lawson’s book ‘Foundations of Grace‘, the book reads like a Biblical Theology on the Doctrines of Grace. Here I am at Chapter Four, and its as if Lawson never wrote the previous three chapters, such is his energy and enthusiasm for the topic.

This chapter covers some of the early leaders of the Bible ‘Joshua to Job’, and shows how God’s sovereignty in salvation was on full display in their life stories.

Here’s how he opens:

Strong men always proclaim a strong message. They do not read the polls and check the surveys before they give their opinion. In fact, they do not even have opinions – they have convictions. They bleed convictions. They are strong men anchored in the strong Word of God, and, as such, they bring a message with gravitas and punch.

That certainly sounds like the kind of man I want to be. Though I come from dust and will return to it, I want to stand for something during this life. Don’t you?

That phrase, “In fact, the do not even have opinions – they have convictions” is worth pondering. I believe what Lawson is getting at is that men and women who stand on the truth of God do not stand on the strength of their own ideas.

The ideas that a godly man or woman stand on are not always popular – in fact, they can be downright dangerous. But they hold them and speak them nonetheless.

Lawson continues:

When they (“strong men”) stand to speak, they actually have something to say - and they say it, whether anyone listens or not. When they sit to write, they do not skirt the issues – they tackle them. When they address the times in which they live, they do not tickle ears – they box them. They do not have one message for one group and a different message for a different group. Wherever they go and whomever they address, they have only one message – God’s message. This is what makes them strong men. They speak God’s Word, or they do not speak at all.

Indeed, very well said! As a Christian there are some difficult truths which we must embrace. Some are difficult because they are hard to understand, and others are difficult because we are sinners and do not like what they entail. Such is the case with the doctrines of grace, as Lawson states:

There is no stronger message than the truths of God’s sovereignty in the doctrines of grace. No other message is more God-exalting and Christ-glorifying than these truths. And yet, no other announcement is as sin-exposing, pride-crushing, and self-denouncing as these five theological points. No other truths are as sweet and previous to the soul that is humbled and submissive, but no other message is more offensive to the flesh or abrasive to the carnal mind than these doctrines. In fact, this message is unbearable to the natural man – just as it is sometimes intolerable even to those who are saved.

In my short time upon this earth, I’ve spent a lot of time in church. And in sermon after sermon, I have heard good men flee from preaching these truths. In fact, one of the things that seems to govern the phraseology of their sermons is a fear of man. A fear of offending either the sensibilities or intellect of their congregants.

I have heard men that I respect and love, equivocate on these truths with a subtlety that would be better left to politicians. And because I am a politician and communications and messaging expert by trade, I smell this stuff from 1000 yards away! I can tell when someone either doesn’t own up to the truths of God’s Word, or cannot fully come to embrace it intellectually.

I sometimes wonder how many other communications professionals – or just attentive people in the sanctuary – pickup on this kind of equivocation…phrases like “God won’t force himself on you, you have to let him into your heart”, which I heard even this week. These are really poor ways of communicating God’s work and your responsibility. And they are purposefully vague because they are meant not to offend, and to force people toward making some kind of “move toward God.” AS IF WE HAVE TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP!?

The truth is that Lawson is right. Without the sovereign in-breaking of God’s love into our lives we would never seek Him (John 3:19-21). I am personally glad that He “forced” His way into my life, and preached grace to my dead heart (Ephesians 2:1-10).

I wrote this post today because I really don’t have much to stand on for truth outside of Scripture and what it says. So that when I come to a more difficult truth in Scripture, I remember that the One who saved me doesn’t have to explain Himself to me. He doesn’t have to tell me why He does what He does. I know He does all for His own pleasure and glory. It is enough for me to know that He saved me, and that if He had not, I would still be standing on the shakiness of my own opinions, and in the end, ultimately, it is not my opinion that will save me.

Weekend Reading: March 27, 2015

Welcome to your weekend! Several interesting articles and videos out there this week. Some of the news items are particularly alarming, but not so alarming that an election or two (or the Gospel!) can’t remedy what ails…

Let’s start with the news from overseas. First, things have been heating up between the Obama Administration and Israel. WSJ first to report that here (paywall), the New York Times has a pretty decent look at how Obama’s chiding of Bibi is actually helping him (even among his adversaries). Most seem to think that Obama has overplayed his hand. And now that the President (still confused as to who his allies/enemies are in the world) has pushed an Iranian nuke deal down the road, it has set off a chain reaction (no pun intended).

And remember when the administration released five Taliban terrorists in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl? Ya, me too. Well this week it was announced that “Bergy” (as his friends would call him if he had any) will be formally charged with ‘desertion.’  Dems playing drinking games based on Obama’s foreign policy missteps have been a sloppy mess all week.

Next, in case you went all amish this week and ignored the outside world, the plane that crashed over the French Alps this week was said to have been downed on purpose when the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cabin. Pretty alarming – this was able to happen because post 9/11 there are locks on those doors etc…

The top article I haven’t read yet but want to: ‘What Lies Beneath’ 

If you have a Wall Street Journal subscription and didn’t see their editorial on Edward Snowden, check it out, you’ll laugh (after you get over your anger).

And in case you missed it John Kasich is testing the waters for a potential run at POTUS.

Off the wall: Ever wanted to know what you get when you cross a seminary professor and a rapper? What? Not even remotely curious?

WaPo says Benny Hinn hospitalized…holding…back…obvious…sarcasm…

Lifeway Christian bookstores aren’t going to sell anymore of those ridiculous ‘I spent 5-10min in heaven and hung out with angels and dead people’ stories anymore…yeah…probably for the best. (h/t Derek Stone).

Speaking of the Post, they had an interesting article on why Americans will likely not elect an Atheist President any time soon.

For your encouragement…

Tim Challies has a post called ‘How to Pray All Day’ that was pretty decent little read.

Christian Audio has Lee Strobel’s work discounted, and one for free.

Steven Lee rightfully says, ‘We Complain Because We Forget’

I wrote a post addressed to leaders in the church based on a devotional I gave last Sunday afternoon.

Paul Maxwell wrote an excellent little post called ‘Put Laziness to Rest’

I just now finally read Jonathon Woodyard’s post about how ordinary Christianity is radical Christianity. You may not agree, but I think he makes some good points here. 

For fun…Your computer color is broken, what a REAL tree house ought to look like, and Jordan Speith’s really really nice house…

This week there were several really good LONG articles. Great for your weekend!  Here they are…

A few weeks back I read this hilarious post from David Murray on his disastrous honeymoon.  This is long, but its worth the read – whatever you’re going through right now, you ain’t got nothin on this!

Speaking of old articles that I just got to this week, this one by Jon Bloom explores the question ‘Did Tolkien Waste His Life?’  It’s a good question. I mean the man spent years and years inventing fake lands and languages, and for what? Was it all to no avail?

Really interesting read by Yahoo Politics about how Presidents book hotel rooms, and all the ins and outs of where they stay and why when they travel.

Quartz takes a look at spaceware...yes, that’s right, the stuff you’ll be wearing when you and Richard Branson team up for a 9 hole match on the Moon…is made in Brooklyn.

If you’ve ever wondered what campaigning in New Hampshire (or other early Presidential contest states) is all about, you’ll enjoy this long read in Politico Magazine about the courting of NH activists. If you are at all political, I recommend this because it gives you an insight on how important grassroots activists are, and how the game works in the early states.

That’s it!  Enjoy your weekend reading!

PJW

Reminding People of God’s Reality

Last week I was asked to give a devotional for our church’s deacon meeting. I used the time to issue the following challenge – perhaps it will be edifying to you as well.

Reminding People of God’s Reality

I want to suggest that most of us get caught up in a reality of our own making so easily, and for so long, that it is often difficult to see God’s reality. This is especially true for those who are suffering. It seems more and more often that as I minister to the body of Christ, that men lean on the shallowness of watered down devotionals, and trinkets of the Word of God taken out of context and plunked down in ‘5 easy steps to happiness’, or ‘how to successfully arrange your day by God’s word.’

Too often have I visited a sick person who has wandered through unsatisfying pages of tripe, when he needs the richness of God’s unvarnished Word. It is your mission to bring that richness to their lives.

Yet, by His grace He has given us several means through which we may see His reality more clearly. Some of these include sharing a testimony from our own lives. Sometimes God uses great literature with rich stories of adventures in other words to bring back a wandering mind into the realities of His governance over this world. Very often though, He uses the traversing of a great wilderness where all good things seemed stripped away, to bring us to nothing in order that we would be reminded that we have everything we need in Him.

Some of the people we are ministering to do not want to spend time in God’s Word. They do not know it, or they have too often allowed the words of men – mostly weak kneed and watered down devotionals – to come between them and the words of God.

When they encounter the Word of God in all its brightness, they are brought back to reality – a reality of God’s making. They realize both judgment and grace. This is the best and most effective way to bring someone back to reality. Yet for the unwilling, there are these other more subtle ways of grace that God uses as “first steps” back to His glorious word.

Well-written fantasy, or allegory, can do just that. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein wrote in such powerful prose that readers are transported from their world to another. In this other world they once again recognize the principles that rule our own world.

Tolkein wrote clearly about this saying…

“The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.”[1]

In Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, a conversation ensues between Lucy, Edward, and the Christ-like character Aslan, which brings out similar truths:

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”[2]

But not everyone we minister to will have this literary background. Sometimes we find people so lost in despondency, and in the desert of their own suffering, that the only escape for them is the few hours of restless sleep they glean every night. We catch them, as it were, in the wasteland.

And it does no good to nurture the idea that God did not ordain their circumstances. Indeed, that is the lie which undermines our very ability to comfort them. Rather, we must point them to the truths of the gospel, and bring them to the only one who can anoint them with the balm necessary to salve their scabbed and worn feet from the desert walk.

It is in the desert where God trained Israel to have affection only for Him. It was in exile that great leaders were born. It was out of Egypt that God called His Son.

For as Samuel Rutherford points out, in a reference to Hosea 2:

I rejoice that He is come and hath chosen you in the furnace; it was even there where ye and He set tryst; that is an old gate of Christ’s. He keepeth the good old fashion with you, that was in Hosea’s days (Hosea 2:14). “Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her to the wilderness and speak to her heart.” There was no talking to her heart while He and she were in the fair and flourishing city and at ease; but out in the cold, hungry, waste wilderness, He allureth her, He whispered into her ear there, and said, “Thou art mine.”[3]

No matter what these “first steps” are, they are God’s gracious gifts to bring back wandering sheep to His fold.

It is our mission as leaders of the church to set that truth in front of them. That truth is this: All you are going through now is not meaningless. It is preordained by God in Christ so that you will treasure Him and His reality above all things.

Therefore my charge to you as leaders is to prevent nothing from coming between the people you are ministering to, and the great realities of the gospel of Christ. Do not let the watered down devotionals of our day, which are often Christ-less and bloodless, be your first line of defense. Take up great allegory from titans of literature, take up great writing from the Puritans, take up experience from God’s work in your own life and show how He has been faithful. Yet above all, take up the Word of God, and use it to shake men and women from the false realities of their own making. Shine truth into their lives in vivid colors and clearly written phrases. Do all you can to showcase the bloody, costly, gracious, glorious gospel of Christ, and in boldness and gentleness pour love into the lives of those you minister to in the weeks and months ahead.

I’ll just close with some thoughts from John Piper to those who are suffering, and the importance of preaching God’s Word to themselves in the midst of the wilderness:

Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.

I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen.

When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory.

Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.[4]

 

footnotes

[1]J.R.R. Tolkein, ‘On Fairy Stories’, http://www.rivendellcommunity.org/Formation/Tolkien_On_Fairy_Stories.pdf?utm_source=Desiring+God&utm_campaign=b5ec8d8fa5-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da5f8315b-b5ec8d8fa5-99744309

[2] C.S. Lewis, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, As quoted on goodreads.com, http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3349054-the-voyage-of-the-dawn-treader.

[3] Samuel Rutherford, ‘The Loveliness of Christ’, Pg. 64-65.

[4] John Piper, as found on desiringgod.com, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-song-for-the-suffering-with-john-piper

Weekend Reading: March 20, 2015

It has been a pretty busy week, so my typical article intake is down to a bare minimum. That being said, I did read some interesting and encouraging items this week, and I hope you enjoy!

First off, if you didn’t watch the news this week then you might have missed a huge election in Israel. PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party scored a comfortable victory, and it seems likely that the PM will remain in his current post. This despite Obama campaign alum efforts to oust the conservative leader who has clashed with the White House on numerous occasions.

Also, Amazon got (high restricted) permission to test its package delivery drones…

Manny Pacquiao was on Fox News Sunday back in February, and I never caught it until this week. Pretty cool answer to why he’s continuing to box.

Best Blog of the Week from Jon Bloom: ‘God Loves Good Wine’

And Vox had an eerie, yet inspiring, first hand account of one lady’s survival of Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

And, my mind must be on Judaism this week, because I also happened to run across this Op-Ed from Michael Douglass (yes the actor) about his own Jewish heritage and how his son is facing issues of discrimination etc. Interesting stuff.

Now, on a more encouraging note…sort of…Nancy Guthrie has a blog post that was very insightful called ‘What Not to Ask Someone Suffering’ that deals with how to gently approach friends and family who are going through painful times.

Two upcoming documentaries of interest hit my radar this week…

There’s going to be an interesting documentary released on the life of Martyn Lloyd Jones. If you don’t know who that is, then check it out here. (h/t Lisa Wenzel)

And for those of you who grew up watching Little House on the Prarie, there’s a new documentary on Laura I. Wilder which might interest you. (h/t my kate)

Now two articles that I’ve been meaning to review and finally got to here have to do with worship on Sunday morning. The first is by Bob Kauflin (sovereign grace music) and is addressing the lighting in the sanctuary, and the second is from Marshall Segal and asks the question, “Do you hear the people sing?” Both make some excellent and worthwhile observations.

That’s it!  Have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: March 13, 2015

Welcome to your weekend (almost)! Here’s what I read this week, and what I hope you’ll find interesting.

Let’s begin overseas. From Foreign Policy Mag: (Russell Moore quoted) Congress sits by as Christians are besieged by the Islamic State. Last August, President Barack Obama signed a bill creating a special envoy charged with helping Iraq’s Christian communities and other minority religious groups targeted by the Islamic State. Seven months later, the post is still vacant, and Congress seems in no rush to fill it.

Along similar lines…a piece I’m just now getting to by Thomas Madden that addresses (and adds perspective) the old trope of “Christians are just as bad as Muslims because, you know, the Crusades and stuff” (h/t Lisa Wenzel).

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to ISIS...I don’t think anyone is really clear about how big of a deal this is yet, but both groups seem to have the same affinity for killing Christians, Jews, and Muslim unwilling to be apart of their Charming Caliphate Club.

I assume everyone saw that 47 GOP Senators sent a letter to Iran, which basically undercuts the Obama Administration’s effort to reach a deal with said country re: NUKES. I’m not sure this was the wisest course of action, but when you’re dealing with the worst (and weakest…and I mean, he is a weakling) president in the history of our country (by far), wisdom can become more difficult to discern. I see the GOP leadership trying desperately to pull the country back from the brink of Chamberlain-like appeasement. I, for one, am glad at least some people are willing to stand up to evil in the world.

Closer to Home: Stumbled on this from a few months ago. Jen Wilkin writes about what moms should do when their husbands don’t actively disciple their kids. NOTE: Dads you would also do well to click through.

2 Articles this week from Jon Bloom over at Desiring God that are worth reading. The first is called ‘Don’t Follow Your Heart’ and the second is called ‘Jesus Will Not Leave You Alone.’

Hilarious rant on how Baby Boomers are the ‘Laziest Generation’ - all spurred on by the revelations that many politicians of this generation don’t use email. I don’t know if they are the laziest generation, but the argument has a certain aroma of truth to it…

Of course that boomer story washed up in the wake of hurricane HRC.  Emailgate (has anyone coined that term yet?) has been the obsession of news outlets for the last week (and rightfully so). Assuming you’re not living under a rock I won’t post links on the basics. But here are some fun peripheral links: Did Time Mag give Hillary Horns? And a hilarious line by line edit of Hillary’s disastrous presser put together by the Federalist. Lastly, this is going to be hilarious if they end up doing it…

Back to real life…if you’re visiting a church, Kevin DeYoung makes a few great points about how to get started there on the right foot. This is a perspective we don’t think much about when “church shopping.”

If you’re not a baby boomer and actually interested in technology (JUST KIDDING!), then maybe you’ll enjoy this article on class anxiety that the new Apple Watch might cause. If they’re right, then $100 says Mr. Class Warfare never says a word – namely because 1. Apple’s customers are young, and so are Mr. Class Warfare’s supporters and 2. Tim Cook is gay, and Mr. Class Warfare wouldn’t want to slander a company whose captain likes sleeping w/boys. Frankly, this is just Apple looking to do what all companies aim to do: make money! If you’re against that, then you ought to pickup the Socialist Pig’s memoir. I picked it up this week, read some of it, put it down, and washed my hands thoroughly.

Now a more sobering article. This one is an interesting look inside the decisions that haunt soldiers post-war, and it aims (I think) to give more clarity on the moral dilemmas that soldiers deal with and how they live with those dilemmas the rest of their lives. Secondly, I think the goal here is to more correctly discern these moral struggles instead of lumping them all under the PTSD category. What to do with a conscience seared by war and evil one faces in the midst of it?  I believe the gospel offers the answer – one such example here. (h/t my Kate)

LASTLY….Interesting popular science article…I’m sure this just happens randomly for no apparent reason, and by pure luck actually helps our planet. Right…that’s it…

Have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: March 6, 2015

Welcome to your weekend! I think we are CLOSE, so close to spring! But for now, its still cold, there is still ice on my walkway (or “fall-way” as I’m dubbing it now), and snow is still on the ground.  So grab a cup of something warm and check out these stories from the past week…

To the left coast we go…Harrison Ford crashed his 1942 fighter airplane into the 8th hole of a golf course this week.  He seems okay though…Some might recall that in the recent past Ford broke his leg somehow on the door of the Millennium Falcon while shooting the new Star Wars flick. This guy is as clumsy around airplanes as I am on the ice!

ford

Speaking of Hollywood – the guys over at Covenant Eyes (a firm devoted to protecting families from pornography) put together a video re:50 things to know about 50-shades of Grey (the movie/book).  I’m posting this a bit late since the movie came out 2 weeks ago, but I don’t mind pilling on and warning good people away from polluting their minds.

IMPORTANT STORY ALERT (not really…but its pretty darn funny): The Bank of Canada has their shorts in a twist over the mass “Spocking” of their 5 dollar bill!  (h/t my Kate)

spock

I clicked over to the New Republic this week to read a piece on Hillary Clinton, but it was super-duper boring. What I ended up reading was this much more interesting article on the evolution of the American Mall. 

This week John MacArthur’s Masters Seminary is hosting a conference on Biblical Inerrancy. Lots of peeps flocking to participate, and in the meantime, R.C. Sproul (one of the speakers) posted this very helpful little blog re: why its an important subject. 

Tim Challies' photo from the Inerrancy Summit in CA.
Tim Challies’ photo from the Inerrancy Summit in CA.

WACKY: Not sure what to think of this one…

In political news…Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is causing her some trouble, particularly as it relates to Benghazi.

And…the Supreme Court is debate Obamacare stuff again - this is round 3.

And you may have heard that Israel PM Netanyahu addressed the US Congress this week. It was a big deal…Here’s the analysis from Al Mohler. Here’s the CNN story about how tweaked our POTUS was about it. 

And I forgot to mention this last week, but in case you missed it, a major Putin critic found himself on the wrong end of a contract hit and wound up dead not far from the Kremlin…ya, seriously…

NERD ALERT: Sometimes folks ask me what books I’ve been reading, so here’s what I finished last week: ‘Blood Feud‘ by Ed Klein which was a really interesting look inside the Clinton/Obama drama-filled relationship(s), ‘Christ-Centered Biblical Theology’ by Grahame Goldsworthy was a great read and I’d recommend it to every pastor reading this because it helps articulate a Christ-centered hermeneutic with helpful suggestions and analysis. Similarly, I finished a short book by G.K. Beale on how to properly handle the NT use of the OT – good for Bible teachers and pastors, though it can be highly technical at times. Finally, last week I read ‘Zillow Talk’ which was a fascinating look inside the real estate market by the men who founded and run the Zillow App.

ON DECK: Books being devoured right now include work by Steven LawsonRichard Lints, Nancy Pearcey, J.R.R. Tolkein, and George W. Bush.  Reading THIS devotionally and its wonderful.

That’s it! Enjoy your weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: February 27, 2015

Hello from sunny Nevada!  I know this is really late to be posting the weekend reading, but with travel and work this week there has been minimal time for any recreational reading or blogging.  Nevertheless, here are a few items that I hope you’ll enjoy as you relax this weekend!

First – the revelation (not that it is any surprise) that Hillary Clinton’s top aides knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack (and not some nonsensical reaction to a YouTube video) from the early moments of the news out of Libya.

And in (related?) other news, a new report out this week says that the US Military has shrunk significantly under President Obama – apparently to levels barely adequate to defend the homeland. 

Ligonier Ministries held their annual conference this past weekend, the messages are online now for free.  ALSO – R.C. Sproul has released a new album of hymns he’s been working on for some time now. Check those out here, and see the making of video here.

David Murry has a post utilizing Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts on food and drink and their enjoyment. A few enjoyable nuggets and a good perspective.

Lastly, if you’ve been a Christian for a while and have read several different versions of the Bible, then you’ll find this next article hilarious – it’s called ‘If All the Bible Translations Had a Dinner Party’ – worth the laugh (h/t my Kate).

That’s it! Go enjoy your weekend!

PJ