30 June 2013

"You won't meet anything uglier than yourself"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 22, sermon number 1,289, "The Heart Full and the Mouth Closed."
"It ought to encourage every one here who has not found peace with God to hear us tell of what we feel of our own sinfulness, because, sinner, where one sinner gets through there is room for another." 

If there is a prison door, and that door is broken down, and one gets out, another man who is in the same prison may safely say, “Why should not I escape too?”

Supposing we were all beasts in Noah’s ark, and we could not get down from the ark to the ground except by going down that slanting stage which most of the painters have sketched when they have tried to depict the scene. Well, we must go down that stage.

Are you afraid? Are you, sheep and hares, afraid that the staging will not bear you up? Listen, then. I am an elephant, and I have come down out of the ark over that bridge, and therefore it is clear that all of you who are smaller than I am can come over too.

There is strength enough to bear up the hare and the coney, the ox and the sheep, for it carried the elephant. The way down has been trodden by that heavy, lumping creature, it will do for you, whoever you may be.

Ever since the Lord Jesus Christ saved me, I made up my mind to one thing, namely, that I should never meet another person who was harder to save than I. Somebody said to me once when I was a child, when it was very dark, and I was afraid to go out, “What are you afraid of? You won’t meet anything uglier than yourself.”

Surely as to my spiritual condition that is true, I never did meet anything uglier than myself, and I never shall. And if there is a great, big, black, ugly sinner here, I say, sinner, you are not uglier than I was by nature, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ loved me. Why should he not love you too?

I tell you that though Jesus Christ is omniscient, and it is saying a great thing to say what he could not see, yet I do venture to say that Jesus Christ could not see anything in me to love. What if he cannot see anything good in you? Then we are on a par, and yet I know he loves me, why not you?

That he loves me I know. Bless his name, I know he loves me now, and I love him, too. If he loved me when there was nothing in me to love, why should he not love you when there is nothing in you to love? Oh, turn that ugly face towards the lovely Saviour, and trust in him.

I put it in a pleasant way, and you smile, but I want to get it into your hearts: I want some poor, trembling sinner to say, “I shall recollect that. I did think myself an ugly sinner, but I will come to Christ, and trust him.”

If you do so, you will never regret it, but you will bless God for ever and ever, and so shall I: and when we get to heaven we will talk about it, and we will say, “Here we are, a pair of huge, horrible sinners, we came to Jesus Christ, and he took us in, and, blessed be his name, we will praise him as long as ever we live.”

28 June 2013

"Be Strong!"

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in April 2010. It's the final installment in a series of posts based on one of Phil's talks at the 2010 Shepherd's Conference. Phil uses 1 Corinthians 16:13 as a launching point for exhortation and encouragement.

As usual, the comments are closed.

It's not enough just to be bold; Christian soldiers need to be strong in order to withstand both opposition and persecution. If you are going to enter the battle in earnest, you will need to be able to endure antagonism, derision, controversy, contempt, and abuse of every kind. It will come from the intelligentsia and the dregs of society alike. Worldly governments, the common people, and the academic elite of this world will conspire together to oppose us, just as they did our Lord.

Jesus himself said (John 15:18-20), "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."

First Timothy 3:12-13: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

If you're faithful, you will be persecuted, and in this worldly realm, you can pretty much count on one thing: those who persecute you will go from bad to worse. Things are not getting better in the world. That's why we have to stay on guard.

You need strength to stand in the battle. Paul is not talking about physical strength. Again, "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh." This is still talking about character, so this is a command to cultivate strength of character—integrity combined with unflagging persistence. You have must that in order to triumph in the battle Christ calls us to fight.

Christ Himself supplies that strength through His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him faithfully. In the words of Colossians 1:11, We are "strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy." Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me." Therefore "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." That is a command; not an option. It is what God demands of all believers, and especially the shepherds of His flock.

Now let me quickly in closing call your attention to verse 14, because this is the vital closing punctuation to everything we have been talking about: Verse 14: "Let all that you do be done in love." That's an echo and a summary of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul gave them an extended discourse on the qualities of love.

Now lots of people are tempted to read verse 14 as if it nullified everything we have just said about verse 13. It doesn't. Jesus fulfilled every quality outlined in verse 13 to the uttermost (and if you don't believe me, read John MacArthur's exposition of Jesus' dealings with the Pharisees in The Jesus You Can't Ignore.) Love doesn't nullify any of the commands of verse 13; but it does define what should be in our hearts—and what our motive should be—as we wage this relentless fight against the ideological strongholds of Satan.


We need to remember that the whole point of tearing down those strongholds is the liberation of people who are held in bondage by them, and therefore everything we do—watching, standing firm, showing manly courage and determination, and drawing on the Lord's strength—all of it should be done in love. It is, after all, the love of Christ that sought us and called us and compelled us to enter the battle alongside Him in the first place. The love of Christ constrains us—to "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong."

27 June 2013

Unfathomable unbelief (re-post)

by Dan Phillips

Of course, Phil's Po-Motivator makes this post from December of 2007 a "win" all by itself. But I thought it timely as well.

And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" (Luke 24:38)
Is this really a rhetorical question?

Our unbelief has to be unfathomable to God, as was the disciples' to Christ. It is as if He were saying,
"What basis have I ever given you for doubting Me? I told you that I would be rejected, handed over to the chief priests and scribes, beaten, condemned, crucified, killed (Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31-33). You didn't believe that would happen, but it did. I also said I'd rise again from the dead (Luke 18:33). Did you disbelieve? Again? Why?"
To say that God knows and understands all things is not to say that God finds everything understandable, if you take my meaning.

It is clear that the Lord does not see doubt as a virtue. But beyond even that, He seems to find unbelief unbelievable.

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26 June 2013

This Just In

What does TeamPyro think about the SCOTUS decisions today regarding DOMA and the Hollingsworth case?

No word today.  Come back later.  Read the other post we already made today.  And stop being so demanding and reactionary.


by Frank Turk

Back on May 7, Tony Miano posted this essay entitled "Ten Practical Reasons Why Every Pastor Should Support Open-Air Preaching," and he was kind enough to ask me to review/link to it.  I think I linked to it via Twitter without even reading it because I'm that big a fan of Tony.  However, even as a fan, I have some brief comments about the essay which, I think, will improve both me and Tony -- and if we are blessed, you the readers also.

It's a great essay.  It speaks to the multifaceted ways actual, real-life ministry results in actual, real-life discipleship.  It is entirely worth your time to read it rather than read my book report of it.

I have one brief objection -- in fact, I have only one thing to say about one word in the whole essay which, I think, we should ponder: the word "should."

courtesy of m-w.com

As you can see, "should" means that it's part of the expected package -- it's like Sunday worship, or administering baptism.  It doesn't quite mean "must," but it indicates obligation.

Personally, I don't think that Tony meant to say that it's every pastor's obligation to support open-air preaching.  I think he actually meant that if a pastor is looking for a biblical, sound, spiritually-fruitful avenue of ministry to lead his church in, one good option is open-air preaching.  Perhaps the title should read, "Ten Practical Reasons Why Every Pastor Can Support Open-Air Preaching," and we could all nod in a manly way to each other and move on.

I agree with everything else Tony says in that essay -- I agree with all the benefits he lists, and I'm especially pleased that he listed "Missional" as one of them.  I think if there were more Biblical, Missional, Long-Suffering, Loving open-air preaching ministries directly associated with Loving, Discipling, Unified, Prepared local churches, we'd be living in a different sort of world.

Think about it.  Discuss in the comments.  See you next week.

25 June 2013

"Compassion"? A parable (re-post)

by Dan Phillips

First posted in January of 2011, this little item seems all the more timely today.

A Visitor's Center one day was manned by twin brothers Nick and Knack. A car pulled into the parking lot, disgorging a breathlessly eager visitor.

"May we help you?" offered Nick genially.

"Yes, thank you!" bubbled the newcomer. "All my life I've been longing to travel Route 49! Can you show me the most direct way?"

Nick paled.

"Oh, I'm very sorry, but you don't want to go Route 49."

"But I do!" insisted the visitor.

"Let me rephrase myself," amended Nick. "You may want to, but you really mustn't.  The road goes along nicely at first, but then you'll see a bunch of roadblocks and obstacles laid across it, slowing you down and warning you off. These impediments aren't really a problem; they're actually a good thing...."

"How can they be a good thing," the visitor cuts in angrily. "This is my dream! I want to zoom, not be slowed down."

"I was going to say," continued Nick, "they're a good thing because otherwise you'll shoot straight off the stub of a broken bridge and plummet 800 feet to your death on the rocky rapids below."

"Oh," said the visitor, turning a bit white himself.

"He says," observed Knack, leaning forward, putting down his latte and stroking his soul-patch.

"The map says," countered Nick.

"Map?" asked the visitor.

"Yep, right here," replied Nick, spreading out the item itself on the counter. "See that red X there? It means bridge out."

"You say it means that," snarked Knack. "say it means 'X marks the spot.'"

"Oh, come on," retorted Nick. "There's a legend at the bottom of the map, for crying out loud! See? 'Bridge out!' It isn't rocket science."

"Scholars now realize that 'X' means many different things in different cultures. Besides, you're talking as if that's the only map," drawled Knack. "This one shows a clear, delightful road right where our visitor wants to go. See?"

"That's in crayon!" exploded Nick.

"You got something against crayon?" inquired Knack.

"No," Nick shot back. "I have something against people destroying themselves."

"Psh," Knack sneered. "You just want safety in rules. The visitor's a daring seeker. He should seek. The journey is what matters, not the destination."

"Seek death?" Nick replied. "I think he'll care plenty about the destination when his car shoots off into space."

There was an angry silence, broken by a sob. It was the visitor, who has tears running down his cheeks.

"All I know is I've yearned to go down Route 49 as long as I remember. Some kids mocked me, others ridiculed me and were mean to me, but the desire has always been there. I can't conceive of not wanting to go down Route 49. It's what my heart tells me to do, and I have to be true to my heart, don't I? I can't lie. It defines me. You can't separate this desire from me. I can't imagine not wanting to go that way. It fills my dreams. I even have a T-shirt. See?" He pulled open his blazer and displayed the garment.

"I understand," crooned Knack. "There is nothing wrong with you or with what you want. And there's nothing wrong with going that way. For you, it is the only way. And in fact, I want to help you. I will personally go ahead of you and remove all the blocks, chains, signs, speed bumps, and ropes that have been stretched across the road. I will mount a parade for you — a Route 49 Pride parade. I will lobby to prohibit people from speaking against traveling Route 49. I will side with you against all the harsh, rule-happy Route 49 nay-sayers. In fact, I will get my brother here fired, because he made you feel bad about wanting to go Route 49. He doesn't care about your feelings, as I do. He doesn't have any love or compassion for you, and I've got buckets of both. Nick's all about rules and maps and shutting you out and playing it safe; I'm all about love and compassion and justice and being bold and daring. Nick is shallow, reactionary and not helpful. I'm deep and thoughtful and helpful. So you just get in your car, and you go go go!"

As the visitor beamed, Nick sprang to block the door. "Whoa whoa whoa, not so fast! Look, friend — how you feel about Route 49 doesn't change the facts: the bridge is out! My feelings aren't the map, your feelings aren't the map. Go that way, and you will die! I don't want you to die. I don't think it's loving or compassionate to give you bad information that means your death. The people who put up those signs and those obstacles knew what they were doing, and they did it because they care about people like you. It shouldn't be easy an comfortable to go down that road. It wouldn't be compassionate of me to focus on giving you a smooth ride to your own destruction, and it isn't "bold" and "daring" to head off to certain doom. Enabling you isn't really helping you. And look, I can show you other ways to go, or I can try to find other ways to help — but don't go that way! It'd be the end of you."

Silence fell again for a moment, then:

"We could call a five-year moratorium on this," offered Knack.

"But I want to go that way now," countered the visitor.

"The map says what it says now, and it isn't unclear," said Nick. "It's said that for a long time, and nothing's changed. Nothing's going to change in five years."

The visitor looked back and forth between the brothers, confused. He knew which brother's advice he liked best, which brother told him what he wanted to hear, but... was that the wisest way to decide?

PREMISE: the bridge was indeed out, and the map was indeed accurate.

QUESTION: which brother actually showed love and compassion?

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23 June 2013

A tonic for the weary

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 15, sermon number 876, "The unwearied runner."
"Scores of timid believers creep towards heaven as the snail crept into the ark, and yet, being chosen of God in Christ Jesus, they are safe."

I heard a gentleman say yesterday, that he could walk any number of miles when the scenery was good; but, he added, “When it is flat and uninteresting, how one tires!”

What scenery it is through which the Christian man walks—the towering mountains of predestination, the great sea of providence, the mighty cliffs of divine promise, the green fields of divine grace, the river that makes glad the city of God—oh, what scenery surrounds the Christian, and what fresh discoveries he makes at every step!

The Bible is always a new book. If you want a novel, read your Bible; it is always new; there is not a stale page in the word of God; it is just as fresh as though the ink were not yet dry, but had flowed to-day from the pen of inspiration.

There have been poets whose sayings startled all England when first their verses were thrown broadcast over the land, but nobody reads their writings now; yet the pages that were written by David and by Paul are glowing with the radiant glory which was upon them when long ago the Holy Spirit spake by them.

As we advance in the King’s highway of righteousness, there are such fresh things in the Christian’s experience, and in Christian truth, that we run and are not weary. Above all, there is one fact that keeps the Christian from weariness, namely, that he looks to the end, to the recompense of the reward. He longs for the resurrection, and he hears the voice that crieth, “Therefore, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

When travelers sail near to certain spice-islands, they tell their nearness to the gardens of perfume by the odours wafted to them on the winds; even so: as the Christian runner advances nearer to heaven, he enjoys new delights such as celestial spirits rejoice to experience.

In proportion as he draws nearer and nearer, the perfume from the many mansions, from the garments of Christ who dwelleth there, and whose garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia—that perfume, I say, comes to him, and it quickens his pace.

The body may be waxing feeble, but the soul is growing strong. The tabernacle may be falling, but the sacred priestly soul within carries on its devotion with greater zest; so, when you would think that the pilgrim’s soul must faint, he grows vigorous; when he sinks to the earth, he stretches out his hand and grasps his crown.

21 June 2013

Charity vs Charitableness

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in April 2008. Phil shows that there is all the difference in the world between Biblical charity and charitableness--both in meaning and practical consequences.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Charity is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Among other things, it "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (v. 6).

"Charitableness" (the postmodern substitute for charity) is something altogether different. It's a broad-minded, insouciantly tolerant, unrelenting goodwill toward practically every conceivable opinion. Its twin virtue—often labeled "epistemic humility"—is a cool refusal to hold any firm and settled convictions. These cardinal postmodern moral values are both seasoned with blithe indifference to the dangers of heresy.

In other words, if you want to be "charitable" by the postmodern definition, you must always leave open the possibility that someone else's truth is equal to if not better than yours. You must never write off other people's beliefs completely. Above all, you must seek to be conciliatory, not confrontive. Bottom line: you pretty much take the position that nothing we believe is ultimately anything more than a personal opinion.

Naturally, then, building bridges to non-Christian worldviews is deemed a better tactic than challenging error head on. Winning the admiration of unbelievers becomes vastly more important than demolishing the false ideologies that bind them. As a matter of fact, one of the best ways to gain non-Christians' respect and appreciation is by looking for common ground and then stressing those areas of agreement, rather than pointing out differences between what the non-Christian believes and what the Bible teaches. The more compliments and congratulations you can give to other points of view, the better. And the more your ideological adversaries like you at the end of the dialogue, the more gratified you are entitled to feel.

That obviously means that candidly telling someone he or she is in error is unacceptable. To the postmodern mind, direct contradiction like that is the polemical equivalent of dropping a nuke; it's an extreme last-resort tactic—rarely used at all in dialogues with unbelievers, but reserved mainly for other Christians whose views are too rigid or too conservative for your tastes.

Did Paul use the tactic of postmodern-style charitableness in Athens?

It sounds pretty silly even to raise that question, doesn't it? You know he didn't. He simply proclaimed the message Christ had given him to preach—"not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4). Just as Paul had always done, he headed straight for the one truth he knew very well would sound most like utter foolishness to them: the resurrection of the dead.


That's what faithful evangelistic ministry looks like. It doesn't cower before opposition. It isn't intimidated by human wisdom. It isn't shaken by rejection. It doesn't waver from the truth. It doesn't shift and change content to suit the preferences or felt needs of an audience. It has one theme, and that is Christ in His death and resurrection. It has one strategy—to unpack the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection and proclaim it with clarity. It confronts every worldview, every false religion, every superstitious belief, every human philosophy, and every skeptical opinion. It rises above all those things and speaks with unshakable authority, because the gospel is the truth of God, and the power of God for salvation.

20 June 2013

Words mean specific things — especially God's words

by Dan Phillips

The baleful effects of postmodernism are not confined to the classroom nor lecture-hall. They can be heard and felt in home Bible studies, frequently run by someone unqualified to lead and unconnected to a local church. They are seen in the oft-heard inquiry, "What does that passage mean to you?"

Now, I don't want to be a Pharisee who pronounces the death-penalty for word-choice. That question can simply mean something like: "God's Spirit uses His unchanging word to touch each of us in individual ways, so that a text with one meaning can apply personally in a thousand manners. What personal application do you take from the one meaning of this text?" Sola-est Sola-ist couldn't object to a question like that... or shouldn't.

However the question sometimes is framed expressly to claim that nobody can really say what a text means. Its meaning is out of our grasp. In fact, its meaning isn't even our goal. If we ask ten people what a verse means, and we get ten irreconcilably different answers, that's a good thing, and all the answers are equally valid.

Yeah, see...that's a problem. And I do mean it.

Paul Henebury makes a great point at the start of his lectures on Biblical covenantalism, focusing on the first chapter of Genesis: God is the inventor of language, and Himself illustrates that words have distinct referents; they are adequate to convey meaning.

He is the first speaker: "Let there be light," He commands (Gen. 1:3). What happens next? Does a pyramid pop into existence? Or a quahog? Or the smell of fried chicken, the law of gravity, a Pyromaniacs T-shirt, Chicago's first album, or the concept of "boredom"?

No. Light happens. God said "light," God meant "light," light is what God created.

And so for each creative verbal act of the original Speaker:

  • He said "expanse," and an expanse is what He got (vv. 6-7)
  • He said "waters," and waters is what He got (v. 9)
  • What He called "earth" was earth, and what He "seas" was seas (v. 10 — seeing a pattern, yet?)
  • He called for vegetation, and (hel-lo?) vegetation is what He got (vv. 11-12)
  • He said "lights," and lights is what He got (vv. 14-18)
  • He called for land animals, and land animals is what He got (vv. 24-25)
  • He said "Let us create man," and man is what He created (vv. 26-27)
Nor was there any utter bafflement when God addressed the first human. Adam understood perfectly well what ""You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" meant (Gen. 2:16-17), apparently well
enough to tell someone else what it meant (Gen. 3:2-3). There is no record of Adam blinking in hopeless befuddlement. God chose words that conveyed meaning; and that's what they did.

Scripture is a collection of God's words. They convey meaning clearly enough and adequately enough. I don't say say "always simply," but I do say clearly and adequately.

My observation from 40+ years is that the real problem is seldom the clarity of God's word. Or perhaps I should say, it is the clarity of God's word... coupled with human unwillingness to bow the knee.

But that isn't a word-problem. It's a heart-problem.

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19 June 2013

Full-Contact Rugby

by Frank Turk

Last week, I made a point to say that nobody wants to be, by analogy, this little fellow:

That is, nobody wants to always be the one with the voice that can peel paint off the walls when it comes to being the bringer of bad news.  And in some sense, that's what Keller and Powlison were on about 5 years ago when they published their paper to the internet about how to respond to bad reports.  It seems to me that yes, indeed, we should season our words with love and compassion and good will in that we do not want to be people who, frankly, thrive on gossip and slander.


Of course to say that there's never a time or place to publicly discuss such things seems, at least, a little bit priggish or weak.  For example, as we considered last week (thanks to the anonymous internet reader's objections), Tim Challies has been on quite a tear into the use of pornography.  For him to do that, at the very least, requires the assumption that there's a bad report out there about someone's use of the internet -- someone on the internet, apparently, is wrong.  All the posts thereafter finally don't follow any of the advice of Keller and Powlison.  Tim does not suspend judgment.  Tim does not bother to think about whether he knows the heart of the people he's on about.  He certainly didn't speak to anybody personally.  Yet as even marginally-objective readers, Tim did the right thing by making every effort to recriminate the use of porn.

I think it turns out that we can be serious, sober, and kind -- and not have to face the world with a blank expression and a sphinx-like silence -- when we are faced with a bad report.  But if we find this to be true -- and I can list examples for you if you're interested -- then what do we do with the original essay which I said I agreed with?  What about the idea that we need to approach bad reports in such a way that we do not become the equivalent of the Hound of the Baskervilles trapped in the body of a fluffy lap dog?

Well, I think the first word missing from the Keller/Powlison essay is "pastoral."  You know: last year I spoke at two conferences and a church anniversary, and the greatest compliment I received from those events came from a single person who came to me and said, "you come across much more pastoral in person than you do at the blog."  Whether that's true or not, I think, is utterly subjective because I didn't write anything for those talks I hadn't written previously at one of the menagerie of blogs I keep from getting deleted by blogger.  But that point simply cannot be made too keenly: there is something pastoral necessary in dealing with bad reports.

The thing we should observe about being pastoral is that not everyone is called to be a pastor, but every Christian is called to somehow demonstrate the truth in love.  Every other internet christian cogitator thinks he is a Berean or follows the Berean methodology, but what's the sense of being a Berean rather than a Thessalonian?  Luke says that the Bereans were "more noble" than the Thessalonians.  Everyone gets very exercised about being as "biblical" as the Bereans, but the word which distinguishes them from those who attacked Paul in the previous city is that they were "εὐγενέστεροι."  What if we expressed our "εὐγενής" in Christ when we encountered a bad report as the first step -- because that's a pastoral thing to do.  It expresses the real care for the souls of those watching and care for the souls doing the things being reported as bad because it has the highest regard for truth, and that's the heart of pastoral virtue.

There also ought to be something brotherly or fraternal in our response to bad reports.  The problem with saying it that way, of course, is that it offends the egalitarians.  However, anyone with a brother knows for a fact that getting correction from him rather than from Mom or Dad or a Sister is not the same as from another source.  It's a combination of full-hearted love and full-contact rugby.  And because it is both loving and rough, it is unmistakable as meant for permanent change.  While it's nice that Keller and Powlison mentioned all the loving parts of responding to bad reports, somehow they omitted stuff like Prov 27:6, or Prov 27:5, or Prov 27:17.

Our reaction to a bad report also ought to be holy.  This is the one all of us fumble from time to time because for something to be "holy," it has to be, by definition, exactly what God would do -- not merely what we imagine God would do.  The quest for our reaction to be "holy" creates both permissiveness and legalistic condemnation, but we have to strive against that so that our reaction is both inside the Law and outpouring the Gospel.  It should not just name what it wrong, but also plead for what's right through the means of Jesus Christ.

And that brings us to the final point: our reaction has to be redemptive.  It has to show the other person that there is a path home in Christ for them.  The ultimate purpose in the Christian life is not to show others how poor, wretched and stupid they are: it is to show them that their poor, wretched, stupid problems are resolved by Christ, and that they can repent and be reconciled to God and to other people.

If you are doing that, you can be Tim Challies without any blushing.  You can be PyroManiacs without wincing.  You can receive and consider bad reports without disgracing yourself.

18 June 2013

Proverbs inspired by the author of Proverbs

by Dan Phillips

Having done an introduction to the introduction to Proverbs, last Sunday I began an actual introduction to Proverbs.

I skipped over the first Hebrew word of the book ("Proverbs-of"), to focus on "Solomon son of David king of Israel." Titled The Pithy Penmen of Proverbs, my focus was the central author and overall editor, King Solomon.

As I'm sure I've remarked somewhere before, I find Solomon one of the most frightening, sobering men in all of history, in the company of men like King Saul, fallen pastors, and the head of the pack, Judas Iscariot.

In Solomon's case, was there ever a man who was more advantaged and fell further — apart from Judas? In the sermon, I traced his lineage, his beginnings, his encounters with God, his accomplishments... and his disgraceful fall.

The sermon concluded with a series of (artless) proverbs based on the instruction one should receive from the life of Solomon. In the sermon, they're offered pretty quickly, so I reproduce them here for your reflection:

A.       Three Do’s
1.        Do love God with everything you’ve got todaynow.
2.        Do cling to God as if all the demons of hell are trying to pull you away.
3.        Do learn God’s word like there’s going to be a test. Because there will be.
B.       Four  Don’ts:
1.        Don’t live on yesterday’s devotion
a.         Yesterday’s spirituality and devotional is a wonderful thing – if you’re building on it today!
b.         But if not, all it is is a towering, damning monument to our declension, a sad comment on how far we’ve fallen, like the religious buildings of Europe.
2.        Don’t relax your guard until the General says the war’s over.
3.        Don’t think you’re home until you’re actually at Jesus’ feet.
4.    Don’t stop studying, learning and doing until the Master says to put your pencil down...which will probably never happen.

To coin a phrase: you (and I) think about that. Amen

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16 June 2013

Holy fire

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Forgotten Prayer Meeting Addresses, page117, Day One Publications.
“In the things of God it seems to me that fire is absolutely necessary, but then it must be fire of a particular sort. It must be a holy fire. There is a great deal of false fire in the world.”

I am afraid that in many revivals there has been much earth-born fire, namely, excitement, that which every orator knows how to excite. It is possible almost by a stamp of the foot or by the glance of one’s eye, to waken the soul, and make a man feel excited till he scarce knows what he is about. But God’s servants should disdain so to excite men’s souls.

It is not the clap, nor the stamp, nor talking fine words, nor piling up sentences into a glowing climax, that has power in it. This in God’s sight is weakness, and we must have done with it. There is a better fire than ever came from mere oratory, a power from on high, and not the mere sparks of man’s kindling.

I think we ought to be very careful in preaching the Word where we get our excitement from, lest, like Nadab and Abihu, we offer strange fire before the Lord. I have sometimes heard of brethren reading certain doubtful works with a view to kindling enthusiasm, and I have even heard of persons taking stimulating drinks for this purpose.

Accursed be the habit! and let no Christian ever for a single second be guilty of it. Fire we must have, but it must not be this earth-born fire, or else God will cast a blight over our ministry and our service.

Now, I do not find that it is so very difficult to get holy and heavenly fire, but I do find that it is extremely difficult to keep it. My soul craves to get some of the fire which was always burning on the altar, and never went out; to be as earnest about sinners in the drawing-room as in the pulpit; to be as fond of winning souls when I am only with half-a-dozen as though I had the assembled throng which crowds this house.

Oh! to pant for souls by day, and to long for them by night; to go to bed with the tear in the eye because they are not saved, and to wake up with some new purpose, half wrought out in one’s dreams, concerning some one whose soul one would fain bring to the feet of the Saviour.

We shall not see great works done by spasmodic efforts. These may be well enough where we cannot get anything better, but, oh! for a fire that burns on, and on, and on, like the sun’s own flame, and grows not dim, though many a candle has gone out and many a star’s light has been quenched in everlasting darkness. May ours be the ‘shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’

15 June 2013

How Your Life Matters (Weekend Extra)

by Frank Turk

I have a friend who lives in a mostly-secularized state that is heavily populated by Catholics.  Like me, this person grew up nominally Catholic and became mostly non-religious by the time they were a young adult.  However, also like me, this person was found by the Gospel later in life and today clings to Christ -- sometimes by the barest thread.  Apply the "like me" to every clause in that sentence.

Anyway, I was having a conversation with this friend after a long period of really-devastating trial and bad turns for them.  I won't go into the details of the matter as they haven't really released me to make a spectacle of them for the internet, but let me say this: you haven't been through more than they have in the last 3 years.  It doesn't matter who you are or what you lost: only the martyrs globally have been through more than my friend.  So they said to me that, today, they were questioning what it is, exactly, that Jesus saved them for?  That is: doesn't God want them to do something Great for God's sake and the sake of the Kingdom?

Now, look: after this coming Wednesday's piece as part two of last Wednesday's piece, I'm going to review this essay by exceptional the Tony Miano, and this book by my friend Michael Belote, and I'll likely publish the text of my talk for the July Tulsa conference after that.  That is: I'm going to be blogging to an audience of about 5000 people on every continent of the world.  Some people would count that as somehow being "important."

That's complete twaddle.

If you have faith in God, this is the most important thing that has ever happened to you:
though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And further still:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
And since that is the most important thing that has ever happened to you, this is the most important thing you can do -- the thing with the most-serious and most-sensational purpose and objective of any of the things you can choose from:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 
... Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
If you are doing that, let this world -- this fallen place with its fallen goals and its tawdry charms and rewards -- do its worst.  The reason Christ saved you is the very reason He created the world, and the reason He died to save it.  Live for that; rejoice for that; and most importantly: suffer for that.

14 June 2013

True joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not the temperament

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in January 2011. Phil reminds us what true joy is and isn't--and that having true joy is our Christian duty.

As usual, the comments are closed.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

"Rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Authentic joy is not about temperament. I hope you don't think of joy as a personality quirk that belongs to naturally upbeat people. True joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It's not a mood or a reaction that is triggered by external stimulus like slapstick or funny stories. True Christian joy is not a sensual emotion.

Don't make the mistake of equating the biblical concept of joy with laughter, merriment, or humor. Laughter and levity are sometimes fruits of joy, but they are not the essence of joy.

As a matter of fact, post-modern society is filled with laughter but almost totally devoid of real joy. Have you ever noticed that some of the angriest people in the world are our best-known comedians?

Laughter is often used to mask the utter absence of genuine gladness. The world uses humor and hilarity as substitutes for authentic joy. We in the church should not ape that mistake.

Nor should we take the approach of certain old-style Victorian high-church prigs who seemed to think every expression of jubilation or happiness was carnal and uncouth. The joy Scripture commends is a pure sense of well-being, delight, gladness. The joy the apostle Paul constantly wrote about is a vivid pleasure that arises from a sense of well-being and satisfaction—even in the midst of earthly hardships. It is a wholly positive thing. It does often produce smiles and even laughter.

Authentic joy—the kind of joy we have a duty to cultivate—is a deep gladness that springs from within. It is impervious to external circumstances. Its ultimate source and object is God. Scripture speaks of it as "the joy of the Lord" (Nehemiah 8:10: "the joy of the Lord is your strength").


What is the chief end for which we were created? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. That enjoyment—a delight in God, a love for Him, and an attitude that finds gladness in every one of His attributes—that great delight and satisfaction is the source of true Christian joy.


Spurgeon said, "You cannot be too happy, brother. Nay, do not suspect yourself of being wrong because you are full of delight. You know that it is said of the divine wisdom, 'Her ways are the ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.' Provided that it is joy in the Lord, you cannot have too much of it."

Indeed, joy is our duty, and according to 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, it is a moral duty on the same level as prayer and thankfulness and doing good to one another.

Baal worshipers can cry aloud and "cut themselves with knives and lancets, after their manner" [1 Kings 18:28]. But Jesus said you, even when you fast, "anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret" [Matthew 6:17-18]. We are supposed to be cheerful, contented, always rejoicing in the Lord. That is part of our testimony, and if your countenance is barren of joy and gladness, you are not being a good testimony for Christ.

13 June 2013

Written for our instruction: it's all in how you look at it

by Dan Phillips

First scene:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2:23–25)
...and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)
And again:
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4–6)
And again:
“Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? (Numbers 16:13)
Then rewind, rewind, rewind:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
Tap the fast-forward:
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:7)
Once more, a bit longer:
Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” (2 Samuel 13:1–4)
And tap again:
But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” (2 Samuel 13:14–15)
Press and hold:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14–15)
Tap rewind:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:1–3)
Once more:
for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
And once again:
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Concluding observations:
  1. Sin always — always — makes things appear as they are not.
  2. The only way to see things rightly is by God's Word
See you in church, Sunday.

Dan Phillips's signature

12 June 2013

A Pint of Baby Orphan Tears

by Frank Turk

Before we get too far here, two things.

Number One: Thanks for asking - my vacation was great.

Number 2 (HT: Fred Butler and DJP):

A truly-inspired video, and a truly-irreplaceable pet.  If my Big Dog screamed like that, I'd have him in movies, but only because it would be impossible to have him in a middle-class neighborhood around anything which would cause him to make that noise -- a noise which makes the shriek of a witch-king pierced by an unexpected woman on a battlefield sound rather cheery.

Now: why post that soul-jarring scream on a moderately-serious blog like this one?  Well, it came to my attention a couple of weeks ago that there is a 5-year-old white paper out there by Tim Keller and David Powlison (men I respect and have defended in the past, and would still do so) entitled Should You Pass on Bad Reports?

Unremarkably, their verdict is, "no."  I know it's unsurprising, but as they summarize the matter, it goes like this:
  • The first thing to do is to simply suspend judgment. Don’t pass on bad reports.
  • The second thing to do is “cover” it in love, reminding yourself that you don’t know all about the heart of the person who may have done evil—and you know your own frailty. Don’t allow bad reports to pass into your own heart.
  • The final thing to do is go and speak to them personally.
And they reach this conclusion through a significant exercise of walking through relevant Scriptural admonitions in order to reach a conclusion which, it seems, nobody can argue with.  It's offered, btw, from the blogger who posted it as something he hopes will resonate with all bloggers, to be posted far and wide on other blogs, to spiritually season Christian conversations on the internet.

Because: nobody wants to be the little white fluffy dog whom others perceive as howling like a cannibal's wedding feast.  Nobody wants to be the one whom others look at the way we all look at the little video above and be the object of dismay, scorn, and derision.  We don't want to be laughed out of the conversation, and moreover: we don't want to be dismissed because we are just a yowling mess.

In that respect: this is good advice.  Nobody should be a perpetual fault-finder -- if for no other reason than it actually makes less of you.  Someone who can find nothing good in other people is someone who is feeding himself only emotional poison.  Being constantly disappointed in other people -- or worse, always being outraged at them -- simply causes you to fail to see the image of God in those people.  Scripturally, you must do better -- and Powlison and Keller spell out why.

What?  Why are you looking at me like that?

I can't agree with good advice?

Oh, I see: you expect me to find fault with this particular consideration of bad reports of other people for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is because it is in some very specific and obvious ways responding to bad reports without, it seems, taking its own advice.  "Like Ministry" and all that.  Well, you seem to have worked that one out on your own.  Why do you need me to work it out for you?

What? You were actually hoping that I'd see if this advice actually works in realy life somehow -- like comment on Challies' on-going crusade against pornography as it relates to this good advice from pastoral minds?  Now: why should I do that?  Is there anyone reading this blog who is not actually aware that pornography is sinful and causes us to sin?  In fact, are there any readers of Tim's blog who are not readers of this blog (there are many of these people) who are not morally opposed to pornography?  We are on the same side of this issue -- why should I try to apply this advice to those posts?

What do you mean, "in what way is it in compliance with this advice to rail on against a particular sin abstracted from particular people? Doesn't that approach violate all of this advice -- first, by believing the worst of essentially all Christians; second, by judging the hearts of others; and third, by utterly neglecting to take the matter to them personally?"  Why would you say such a thing about a fellow everyone agrees is both discerning and utterly nice?  Do you think there's something wrong with general good advice?

Oh:  I see what you're driving at.  You're actually saying that the advice itself it a little bit too facile, too superficial -- that if somehow when it gets applied to the nicest fellow on the internet and somehow makes him out to be a watchblogger, it must somehow be faulty.  And by "Faulty," you mean the way a small dog that bays with the wails of demons demanding a pint of baby orphan tears is faulty -- it is neither useful, nor practical, nor as domesticated and harmless as it looked before it opened its mouth.

That's a pretty serious thing to say about useful fellows like Keller (who has sold a bajillion books, and gets to appear on Morning Joe) and Powlison (who has his own place in the pantheon of useful, center-bound Gospelistas in spite of his lesser status as a published author).

I'll consider your opinion and get back to it next week.

11 June 2013

"Not Laughing Now"

This post was just published at the Grace To You blog on June 10, 2013. Phil responds to criticism of the upcoming Strange Fire Conference made by Rodney Howard-Browne, "The Holy Ghost Bartender." It was such classic Pyro-style material (—go figure!) that we sought and received Phil's permission to repost it here.
As usual, the comments are closed.

Rodney Howard-Browne, self-styled “Holy Ghost Bartender,” has taken notice of the Strange Fire conference sponsored by Grace to You (October 16-18, 2013). He seems unnerved by the prospect that twenty-first-century charismatic phenomena are going to be examined in light of Scripture. Howard-Browne’s trademark giddiness has gone missing. Recently, he wrote this stream-of-consciousness rant on his Facebook page:
There is coming a massive attack on the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement by a group of individuals that don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit today - these men do not believe in speaking in tongues or the gifts of the spirit - they think that because of excesses in the church that they have a right to write off the fastest growing sector of Christianity - over 800 million in the earth today - that would be as bad as writing Jesus off because of one of the 12 was Judas Iscariot - if these individuals just adopted Gamaliel’s advice of Acts 5:38-39 that would be fine however they have no fear of God and are in grave danger of blaspheming the Holy Ghost - they think that because the movement has had scandals that have been publicised that this gives them leeway to do what they are doing - however the only reason why it gets the attention is because these individuals are on TV - everywhere I travel I hear of scandals outside of the Pentecostal charismatic realm but these are never publicised because no one knows them - they are calling their exposé strange fire however you better have the alternative if you are going to criticise something as counterfeit you have to produce the real - or else you had better shut up! The only ones who have the right to bring correction are the ones inside the camp not outside!
All the standard charismatic arguments are summarized there: He says critics of modern charismatic claims are unspiritual people motivated only by rank unbelief. He insists the weight of sheer numbers validates the modern charismatic movement (yet the high percentage of scandalous frauds, philanderers, and false teachers spawned by the movement means nothing). He emphatically declares that those outside the movement are not entitled to criticize charismatic abuses. And of course he includes the killer argument: The critics are people who “have no fear of God and are in grave danger of blaspheming the Holy Ghost.”

In reality, those who tout false prophecies, obscene bodily gyrations, and drunken behavior as gifts of the Holy Spirit are the ones blaspheming Him. In fact, no one is more notorious for that than Rodney Howard-Browne himself. For him to decry blasphemy and pretend to know anything about the fear of God is the very height of arrogant irony. If you think that sounds unduly harsh, watch this video of a typical Rodney Howard-Browne “ministry” binge:

Strange Fire, indeed.

09 June 2013


Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Teachings of nature in the Kingdom of grace, pages 223-224, Pilgrim Publications.
"Whatever God hath not planted will be rooted up."

Jesus Christ had spoken certain truths which were highly objectionable to the Pharisees. Some of His loving disciples were in great fright, and they came to Him and said, “Knowest Thou not that the Pharisees are offended?”

Now our Saviour, instead of making any apology for having offended the Pharisees, took it as a matter of course, and replied in a sentence which is well worthy to be called a proverb,—“Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”

Now we have oftentimes, as Matthew Henry very tritely remarks, a number of good and affectionate but very weak hearers. They are always afraid that we shall offend other hearers. Hence, if the truth be spoken in a plain and pointed manner, and seems to come close home to the conscience, they think that surely it ought not to have been spoken, because So-and-so, and So-and-so, and So-and-so took offence at it.

If we never offended, it would be proof positive that we did not preach the Gospel. They who can please man will find it quite another thing to have pleased God.

Do you suppose that men will love those who faithfully rebuke them? If you make the sinner’s heart to groan, and waken his conscience, do you think he will pay you court and thank you for it? Nay, not so; in fact, this ought to be one aim of our ministry, not to offend, but to test men and make them offended with themselves, so that their hearts may be exposed to their own inspection. Their being offended will discover of what sort they are.

A ministry that never uproots will never water; a ministry that does not pull down will never build up. He who knoweth not how to pluck up the plants which God hath not planted, scarcely understandeth how to be a worker of God in His vineyard.

Our ministry ought always to be a killing as well as a healing one,—a ministry which kills all false hopes, blights all wrong confidences, and weeds out all foolish trusts, while at the same time it trains up the feeblest shoot of real hope, and tenders comfort and encouragement even to the weakest of the sincere followers of Christ.

07 June 2013

Psalm 13: Inward Look, Outward Look, Upward Look

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in October 2010. Phil discusses the three perspectives of David's prayer in Psalm 13.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Psalm 13 is a fascinating look into a side of David's prayer life we can all easily relate to. This man after God's own heart pours his soul out in frustration, fear, and ultimately faith as he struggles through the ordeal of tribulation.

The psalm is first of all a great prayer. There's nothing typical about it; in fact, it shatters our presuppositions about what really "spiritual" praying is like. But a close look shows it is in perfect harmony with how Jesus taught us to pray. Brevity and honesty—two qualities sadly missing from most of our prayers—stand out as its hallmarks.

More than a lesson about prayer, however, this psalm is a model response for those of us going through deep trials. David wrote it in anguish over the apparent success of an unrelenting enemy. We don't know which enemy—it might have been Saul, the renegade king, who chased David like an outlaw; or it could have been the Philistines, who as a nation epitomized all that God hates.


At first David looks inside himself, and sees only his own sorrow (vv. 1-2a). See how many times in these early verses he uses the first-person pronouns: "I," "me," "my," "my soul," "my enemy," "my heart." He's questioning God, wallowing in his own defeat, wondering why God seems to be hiding His face.

Was God hiding His face? Of course not! David was merely looking in the wrong place.

There's a serious danger in the wrong kind of inward look. Healthy introspection, the kind that leads to confession of sin and the humble brokenness of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:3-5, is critical to our spiritual survival. But looming in the face of those who look within themselves is a monstrous peril: a morbid preoccupation with our own inadequacies that breeds depression and debilitates us spiritually.


David turns his focus from within and begins to look around (vv. 2b-4). Now all he sees are his surroundings. What a different David this is from the young shepherd who strode confidently into the presence of the mighty Goliath with no armor and only a few pebbles for weapons! Pay careful heed to the lesson: one great victory does not ensure future triumph.


Finally, in verses 5 and 6, David looks to the Lord, and there he sees his salvation. Compare this passage to verses 1 and 2. "Me . . .I . . .mine" has given way to "thy mercy . . . thy salvation . . . the Lord."

Thus what in the beginning sounded like a dismal wail of unbelief becomes an exhilarating hymn of faith. What's the difference? The trial has not changed—but David's point of view has. Now his eyes are clearly directed upward.

Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8)—that goes for deliverance from trials as well as salvation from sin. No other truth emerges from everywhere in Scripture so definitively. If we look around or within—or anywhere but to God—for a way of escape, we are condemned to disappointment and ultimate failure.

It is God who provides the way of escape—not out of our trials, but rather through them. He enables us to bear testing, not avoid it (1 Cor. 10:13). And He uses our tribulations to accomplish His wonderful purpose in us (Rom. 5:3-5, James 1:3-4).

Thus God works all things—including our hardest testings—together for our good. That's the ultimate victory, and it's how even in our darkest hour of trials, we can fix our eyes on Him and say confidently with David, "He hath dealt bountifully with me" (v. 6).

06 June 2013

"Assuming Jesus lied and is dead..."

by Dan Phillips

It's one of those commonplaces that many never notice. But once you do notice it, you see it everywhere.

I speak of the unspoken assumption of a great many non-Christian/Christian dialogues, at least from the non-Christian side. Unspoken, I say (or speak, heh), but there nonetheless.

Take this recent post from one of those blogs you should visit every day instead of ________ and _______ ___ ______, to wit: Fred Butler's Hip and Thigh.

Fred responds in characteristically non-RPB style to another post titled 7 Truths LGBT Kids Need to Hear from Homeschooling Parents. Fred's post, in turn, elicits a cordial, well-written challenge from a person named "whitechocolatelatte" which goes something like this:
Are you endorsing a tough love, aka abusive or bullying, response to LGBT children? We all know people will have theological disagreements, but the larger question is how to love those you care about most in the midst of those disagreements.
To interpret a hurt child’s longing for affection and understanding as an assault on your faith is not a gracious response on any level. If you want to weep in your closet and pray, be my guest, but when you interact with people you disagree with, especially if they are people who look up to you, what they need is acceptance of *their inherent worth,* regardless of their theological positions or lifestyle choices. (You would even agree with that, theologically, wouldn’t you — we are all made in the image of God?) If you develop a real relationship with people, and they see you have a life they would prefer, you’ll get questions, but running around throwing metaphysical stones like this is just bullying.
Getting up on your high horse is not going to convince anyone else to come down off of theirs.
As such responses go, it's hard not to appreciate the relative graciousness of the questioner, and his/her attempt to make common-ground, from his/her -- oh, bother, his -- perspective.

But there it is. Really to get what he's saying, you have to preface it with the thought, "Assuming the Bible is a lie," or "Assuming God's word is insufficient and uncompelling," or "Assuming Jesus lied and is dead..."

Because what he does is simply sweep aside Scripture and the worldview it lays out. He calls Fred to assume with him that everyone's self-chosen path is equally valid (except the Christian one), and that the highest value is love-as-endorsement, and that the greatest crime is making people (except Christians) feel bad about their choices... and on that basis, calls Fred to come off it.

Which Fred, characteristically, does not.

That last is a constant feature, by the way. The assumption here is that Fred is the issue. He is on his "high horse." How could it be otherwise? We're all free to choose whatever we choose to believe; there is no external, compelling authority against whom it would be high moral treason to rebel. All there is is choice, our choice, our hearts, our feelings and values and judgment.

And so, sure: assuming that, then whatever you want, follows. Like "Assuming that saltwater is air, crossing the Atlantic is just like a really long walk." Right. Exactly. Assuming.

What I'm wanting to highlight is that this is not new. When were the words "Has God really said" spoken, in challenge to an unwelcome word from God? You know. And have you seen what Satan did there? Like Fred's commenter, he didn't try formally to deny everything at once. He didn't deny that there was a God. But he did deny that God was compelling, that God's word was binding and sufficient, that the only starting-point for thought was the word of God.

That was the whole game-plan, and it was executed very effectively. Simply move the game pieces to a different board and a different set of rules. Do that, and it's all over but the rolling of the credits.

Listen for that, in what is said to you; watch for it, in what you read. It's seldom stated formally, but it's there: "Assuming the Bible is under our judgment, assuming our judgment is supreme, and assuming that we are as gods, don't you think...?"

Once you see that, you see the bankruptcy of evidentialism as an apologetic. You see that granting that assumption is the whole game. You see that ultimately the only sufficient response can be, "But I don't assume that. And since you have no transcendent reason for doing so, I call you instead to assume that God's word is sufficient and compelling, that God alone is sufficient judge, and that Jesus was the truth, is the truth, and spoke the truth, and that He is alive and coming as Judge of the living and the dead.  Assume that, and..."

Game over.

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