Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stumbling block (people)

"There are many professing Christians who, frankly, make it harder for others, especially other Christians, to believe . Because, in spite of their professed devotion to Jesus, their lives are so filled with discontent and distractions and even down-right disobedience, that their pious claim of having found their purpose and joy in Christ and their service to Him just does not ring true. In fact their hypocritical pretending of piety in the midst of what it’s pretty clear that they really care about clangs false.

"But then, thank God, there ARE those, that precious few, that remnant of the real, who, by the choices that they make, and the contentment and commitment that they manifest as they make them, show that Christ really and truly is ‘the Pearl of great price’ and the ‘treasure in the field’ so surpassingly valuable to them that they are happy to sell off everything else they once clung to or daydreamed about in order to possess Him (Matt. 13:44-46)."

-- Jon G. Baldwin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My dad died one year ago today, so I suppose it’s not unusual to be reflective. There are all kinds of things I’ve been thinking today, including this reality check: there are limits in this life, and there are last opportunities. It’s easy to live with the idea that ‘it’s never too late’ – never too late to do right, to say what you want to say, to turn your life around (or, more accurately, to let God turn you), to do your part to repair a relationship, to share the Gospel, again, with a family member or a friend, to do the good that it’s out there for you to do, to trust Christ as Savior, to get serious about following him as Lord. And while it’s true that most of the time we are given many, many chances – many more than we deserve – it’s also true that there are in fact limits and last chances and the prospect of lost opportunities. So we need to get real, get wise, and do the good and Godward things we need to do now – today, while the door is still open. As the Bible writers say more than once, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts….”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Just as I am...

"If you just cannot accept, no matter how many times we say it, that God takes sheer delight in you, even though you’re stumbling around in your failures and addictions and making such slow strides toward maturity— hear us: “God shows his own love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” No way, of course, does He want you to keep being beaten up and taken hostage by these unsightly habits and other leftover dysfunctions. They mean you no good, and they will always cost you freedom and joy and the confident blessings of obedience. But that doesn’t mean we’re not all, every last one of us, in an ongoing recovery mode as God keeps doing His work in us— which we must sure need a lot of."

-- Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer, "Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change" (p. 49).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meditative Prayer and Scripture

"Meditative prayer is far from the mystical practice of emptying one’s mind and yielding to the experience of mental passivity. What Packer calls for is that we fill our minds with truth from God’s Word about God himself. Meditation is what Packer refers to as directed thinking, active mental exertion in faithful and sustained focus on Scripture, God, the beauty of creation, the truths of redemption, and all that has been revealed of Christ and his saving work."

-- Sam Storms, "Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Theologians on the Christian Life)" (p. 143). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Biblical Illiteracy

“In my opinion, the greatest sin in the church of Jesus Christ in this generation is ignorance of the Word of God. Many times I have heard a church officer say, "Well I don't know much about the Bible, but..." and then he gives his opinion, which often actually contradicts the Word of God! Why doesn't he know much about the Bible? These things were written aforetime for our learning. God wants you to know His Word.” - ~ J. Vernon McGee

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Turning Fifty and Still Fighting for Faith

Wise, realistic insights from Jon Bloom

I turn fifty this weekend. Fifty. It came faster than I expected.

I received a birthday greeting in the mail from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). I told my wife that it was like receiving a card from the Grim Reaper. Retirement is not something I’m prepared to think about yet, either psychologically or financially (though I may be prepared in the former sense before the latter sense).

Or spiritually. There is no retirement from Kingdom work.

I am among the oldest of so-called “Generation X,” born from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. We are a gap generation, an undistinguished “X” between the massive, socially dominant Baby Boomers and the noisy, hip Millennials. We are not “the greatest generation,” and we’re not the coolest. We’re the quiet, middle-child generation. We came of age in the relatively conservative Reagan-Bush era, which means we aren’t political or cultural revolutionaries. And we are now increasingly finding ourselves in middle age, no longer trendsetters, and not yet sages.

Fifty Feels Different

Middle age feels different than I thought it would. My grandmother once said to me (she was in her early nineties and I was in my early thirties), “Inside I still feel like I did in my twenties. I look in the mirror now and wonder, who is that old lady?” Now I understand better what she meant. Much of the inner me at fifty does not feel different than I did at 25. But when I see myself in photos, I wonder at the middle-aged man. Is that really what I look like? That looks like my dad.

But looking older is not the hard part of middle age. That’s mainly hard on my vanity, which is good for my soul. The harder part is the deeper, existential realization that at fifty I am still far more like the 25-year-old inner me than I thought I would be.

I thought I would be more mature by now. I thought I would have greater faith. I thought I would be more prayerful, less fearful, more patient, less irritable. There has been progress in all these areas, but not as much as I expected.

I thought I would be a more Christ-like, Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus, a better husband, a more skilled father, a more thoughtful friend. I thought I would be a bolder witness for Christ and a greater lover of people. I thought I would be more fruitful. And I thought I would have made more progress in overcoming my constitutional and temperamental weaknesses.

The hardest part of middle age is realizing how much of the me I thought would change still remains. The pace of sanctification is turning out to be painfully slow. Disgusting depravity is still a daily battle on many levels. I am still so “beset with weakness” (Hebrews 5:2).

Middle Age Temptations

I know better now why people have mid-life crises. There are more demands on us at this stage of life than at any previous time. Family, vocational, financial, and often ministry challenges are more complex than ever. And these arrive precisely at the time when it dawns on us that we are more sinful, weaker, and less wise than we thought we’d be by now. We can feel trapped in the middle.

That’s why some respond by withdrawing into a protective cocoon while others bolt for some greener-looking pastures. Some grasp at a new fantasy since the old ones didn’t deliver, while others simply succumb to the cynicism that all dreams are empty fantasies and begin the hardening process that produces bitter old people. When weakness meets weariness, and discouragement meets disillusionment, we must be on our guard. These are spiritually precarious moments.

Sufficient Grace to Endure the Race

I’m finding that what I really need at this phase of life is the refreshing gospel reminder that it is precisely my weaknesses that showcase most clearly and beautifully the strength of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 2:9–10), and that I have need of endurance, so that when I have done the will of God I may receive what he promised (Hebrews 10:36). My weaknesses have a purpose in God’s design, and so does my weariness.

Middle age is like miles twelve to twenty in a marathon (at least psychologically), when the initial energetic optimism of the start is gone and the finish line still seems far off (even with the AARP cheerleaders). Miles still stretch out ahead, and we know there are still some hills. Our body is weary, and our mind is susceptible to mental diversions. Regrets, anxieties, and fears cloud our thinking more than they did at the beginning. We are faced with various temptations to give up.

These middle miles may not be the most glorious miles of the race, but they frequently are the most important. Whether or not we finish well is often determined during this stretch of road.

So as I help lead the vanguard of Generation X into our sixth decade in the race of faith, with the rhythm of my feet upon the pavement and through some fatigue, I’m preaching to myself, There’s sufficient grace to endure the race (2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 12:1).

Fifty came faster than I expected. So will sixty and seventy, if the Lord wills. So will the finish line. So will Glory. And each will feel different than I thought it would. My expectations, and certainly my self-image, are not what’s important.

What’s important, what this whole race is about, is obtaining the Prize (Philippians 3:14). And I want to keep running that I may obtain it (1 Corinthians 9:24).

-- Jon Bloom

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


"Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up." -- G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A grumbling mood

“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine...." -- C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Advantages of Believing in Providence

The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?” And answers:

"We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sanctification by Word and Spirit

"The sanctification of the Spirit is peculiarly connected with, and limited to the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is the implanting, writing, and realizing of the Gospel in our souls."

-- John Owen

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Blessings of Christ's Kingly Office for Us

"The happiness promised us in Christ does not consist in outward advantages—such as leading a joyous and peaceful life, having rich possessions, being safe from all harm, and abounding with delights such as the flesh commonly longs after. No, our happiness belongs to the heavenly life.

"Christ enriches his people with all things necessary for the eternal salvation of souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unconquerable against all the assaults of spiritual enemies. From this we infer that he rules—inwardly and outwardly—more for our own sake than his.

"Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph."

-- John Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Helpless Guilty Nature Lies

How helpless guilty nature lies,
Unconscious of its load!
The heart, unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God.

The will perverse, the passions blind,
In paths of ruin stray;
Reason, debased, can never find
The safe, the narrow way.

Can aught, beneath a power divine,
The stubborn will subdue?
Tis Thine, almighty Saviour, Thine,
To form the heart anew.

O change these wretched hearts of ours,
And give them life divine!
Then shall our passions and our powers,
Almighty Lord, be Thine!

-- Isaac Watts

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Message That Counters Everything

"...The gospel is the one message that counters everything we want to believe about ourselves and about God. It counters the message of Pride Toronto, it counters the message of liberal Christianity, it counters the message of atheism, it counters the message of Mormonism, it counters the message of humanism, it counters every single message outside of itself.

"We want to believe that we are autonomous, but the gospel assures us we are under the jurisdiction of God...."

For the rest of Tim Challies' article, click here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


We vastly underestimate the effects of the reality that our fall into sin, back in the Garden of Eden, had not only in turning us toward doing the bad instead of the good, but, simultaneously, it also meant that we would become very, very, very foolish. And that was bound to play out in all kinds of crucial and massive ways in our individual lives, our families, and in our politics and society. We need the rescuing gift of God's truth as much as we need his grace. (Eph. 4:17-19)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Almost Saved...

Here's an excerpt from a D.A Carson devotional from Luke 11:24-26:

"Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant....

"There are three lessons to learn.

"...First, partial conversions are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enought to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:14-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

"The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God's dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

"The third lesson is inferential.... Evil cannot simply be opposed -- that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must 'overcome evil with good' (Rom.12:21). For instance it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resloving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one's affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good." [Eph.4:22-32]

--D.A. Carson "For the Love of God" for Feb.25 (Crossway 1998)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

We Just Don't See Straight

“We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time and a great mist over the things of eternity.”

― J.C. Ryle

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Christ Coordinates Our Friendships

'In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another."'

-- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn versus Anthony Kennedy on the Nature of Liberty

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's view of human freedom, rooted in historic Christian thinking, is just about diametrically opposed to the view espoused by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his recent Supreme Court opinions...

Consider this quote from Solzhenitsyn:

" American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.

"Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century...."

-- "A World Split Apart" — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

July 4, Inalienable Rights, and the Creator

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As we celebrate July 4, there are some striking things to take note of in this most famous sentence from the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers regarded these to be among the ‘self-evident truths’ that were foundational to our republic: “that all men are CREATED equal”, and that “their Creator” (not any human government or governmental institution) was the source of their “inalienable rights.”
So if the Creator is the source of our rights, surely he must be the one who defines them, which makes this statement from Jesus seem especially relevant in our time: “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,….” (Matthew 19:4).
I am not one to claim that all the founding fathers were orthodox believers, but who can doubt that they and Jesus had the same Person in mind when they refer to the Creator?
It seems that Secularists today are determined to re-define historic cultural institutions, but to do so they have to attempt what even they cannot actually and legitimately do -- which is to re-write history. As John Adams himself said, "Facts are stubborn things...."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interest in God Himself

"Moving in evangelical circles as I do, I am often troubled with what I find. While my fellow believers are constantly seeking to advance in godliness, they show little direct interest in God himself. When they study Scripture, only the principles of daily personal godliness get their attention; their heavenly Father does not. It is as if they should concentrate on the ethics and dynamics of marriage and fail to spend time with their spouse!

"There is something narcissistic and, to tell the truth, nutty in being more concerned about godliness than about God. As it would not be nice to care more for our marriage than for the partner we have promised to love, honor, and cherish, so it is not nice to care more for our religion than for the God whom we are called to praise and please every day of our lives."

-- J.I. Packer, quoted by Sam Storms, "Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Theologians on the Christian Life)" (Kindle Locations 2924-2930). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The American Experiment

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -- John Adams

Who You Really Are

“What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” -- Robert Murray McCheyne