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It grieves me to read blogs that use a tragedy to grandstand. I've done it, and I hate it. But there's also the reality that public heartache gets people thinking about a topic—and we might as well endeavor to think well.
Regarding Robin Williams' suicide, I wrote the following Facebook post:
"Funny people are often sad. Popular people are often lonely. Successful people are often insecure. Wealthy people are often broken. This is always true, whether we notice it or not. We just had a profoundly tragic reminder. I ache over it. We need grace."
I do ache. I'm sad that the world is so broken. I'm sad that someone can reach such a desperate place that destruction actually seems like a solution. But people do descend to that kind of crushing despair, more often than you'd think. They need help. They need understanding. Ultimately, they need Christ.
If possible, I want to help others think well about the issue of suicide. To that end, here's a PDF of a piece I wrote on the topic in the recently published devotional Gospel...
You know, of course, how a boomerang works—you throw it out, it does its work, and then comes back to you. It was originally used as a weapon; now (in our society) has become a toy.
Listen to what else becomes a boomerang:
A merciful person benefits himself; but the cruel person hurts himself. Proverbs 11: 17 (CCNT/Proverbs)
What you throw at another returns! Of course, you shouldn’t show mercy in order to receive it. And, you certainly won’t be cruel in order to receive cruel treatment in return! But in God’s order of things, you can look for boomeranging events to happen!
“Why don’t people treat me better?”(you may wonder). How do you treat others? It’s an interesting concept—isn’t it? Think about it and start interpreting your life experiences in relationship to their boomeranging effects.
Here is what the Thessalonians had to say about Paul and his associates when they came to town:
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Acts 17:6 (HCSB)
They were wrong, of course.
“Wrong? How so?”
They had it backwards; or, might I say, upside down?
“What are you talking about?”
Simply this: these preachers were not turning the world upside down; they were turning it right side up!
Ever since Adam, things have been upside down because of man’s sin. When the Gospel is preached, and people believe, for the first time they begin to live as they were intended by God to live. Of course, not perfectly so.
“No one is perfect; as Jesus was. Will believers ever become perfect?”
When He returns to earth and transforms us into the perfect creatures he intends us to become.
“When is that?”
It is the next thing on God’s given agenda.
No one knows the date. We are to be ready for it to come whenever it does.
“Do all of...
what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight (Luke 16: 15 HCSB).
Here’s the challenge—
Things had gotten worse than many realized. But God was about to let them know how bad they really were. He said:
My people are fools. They do not know Me. . . They are skilled in doing what is evil, but they do not know how to do what is good (Jeremiah 4:22, HCSB).
As a result, God was about to send the Babylonians to invade and destroy the land, including Jerusalem and its temple. Then, they would awaken – but too late.
How about God’s church today? Are there fools squabbling over non-essentials, teaching all sorts of heresy, and drifting farther and farther away from the truth? How much evil living is there among those who purport to serve God—but actually do not? Have they become skilled at doing all of the wrong things . . . and have no idea how to do the right ones?
How does one acquire skill? By constant practice. Obviously continuation in the foolish ways in which modern Christians live is just such practice. Search your lives. In what are you skilled—good or evil?
If you are contributing to the breakdown of society by your foolish ways, repent and begin to do those things that please God! That is the skill...
We’ve heard of all sorts of supposed solutions recently to the problem of violence: better education, stiffer laws, training police in how to handle it—you name it and, chances are, someone has already beat you to suggesting it.
Perhaps it’s time to listen to what God says about the matter:
Without revelation people run wild, but one who keeps the law will be happy (Proverbs 29:18 HCSB).
Apart from a divinely-given standard, and the acknowledgement of it, there will never be a society that is peaceful, happy and genuinely civilized. The Scriptures, of course, are just such a revelation. God knows what leads to peaceful living, and has told us in the Bible. As less and less people submit to God’s Word, things get worse and worse. That it should faithfully be preached and believed more and more is the only answer to the present chaos.
Christian, what are you doing to bring this about?
There are a wealth of phonics programs available today to teach children reading and spelling. We primarily use All About Spelling for phonics, but I have also looked intently at–and own–Spell to Write and Read, which has been highly recommended by several friends and is used at our local classical Christian school, Bob Jones phonics and reading, which is one of the pioneer programs in the phonics resurgence, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and Phonics Pathways, both of which are highly recommended in The Well-Trained Mind. What is the difference between these methods? “Is there a classical approach to phonics, and if so, what is it?” In this very informative article (which, by the way, came out earlier this past summer in The Classical Teacher and is now, finally, available online), Cheryl Lowe, founder of Memoria Press, compares and categorizes the various phonics approaches–traditional phonics, the Spalding method, and the Orton-Gillingham approach–from a classical...
For many years, Matt Recker has been a church planter and pastor in New York City. He has started churches in Brooklyn and Queens, and he presently pastors the Heritage Baptist Church in Manhattan. He has written and taught on urban ministry, becoming recognized among fundamentalists as something of an authority in these areas.
Recently, Pastor Recker has also been writing against what he calls the New Calvinism, by which he means mainly The Gospel Coalition (he also mentions Together for the Gospel and a few other groups and individuals, but only occasionally). His thesis is that the New Calvinism is recapitulating the New Evangelicalism of the 1940s and 1950s, though he sometimes looks for parallels in evangelical trends as late as the 1980s.
What is Pastor Recker calling the New Evangelicalism? He finds its chief characteristics primarily in an article, “Is Evangelical Theology Changing?” published in Christian Life in 1956. That article listed eight evangelical theological trends of that era, and Pastor Recker thinks that he can discover parallels for each trend in The Gospel Coalition.
Why must someone be baptized as a believer in order to join a local church? Because church membership is a public affirmation of someone’s public profession of faith in Christ, and Jesus has appointed baptism as the means by which his followers publicly profess their faith in him. A church can’t affirm the profession of someone who hasn’t yet made that profession.
No, I haven’t been looking into facelifts or a new Fountain of Youth. I’ve been researching my health issues for about a decade now, and I’ve found a new path in the journey that, I have faith, will not be another merry-go-round, but rather an escalator! This new direction is Creator-based, using nutrients He made to heal the body He made!
Up until now, for the joint pain and inflammation (which tested negative for arthritis, Lupus, and RA…but positive for fibromyalgia), the fatigue (which tested positive…again…for Epstein Barr virus) and migraines (for which I’ve been treated by a few chiropractors as well as having a CAT scan and going to physical rehab for the structural instability in my neck), I feel like my health has been on a dimmer switch, gradually brightening.
The MD’s concluded:
At first, here’s an interesting interview about work and productivity from Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the very interesting Freakonomics. Habits and patterns of work are increasingly important to me. They probably should be for all of us.
At second, here’s a much needed article on Preaching and Piety. Too often, it seems like the beauty of the gospel is being used as a cover for sinfulness. The pastoral qualifications still mean something other than being able to exegete, assemble a message, and deliver it. We should take them seriously.
At third, Andy Naselli links to an article about unmarried couples making out. Andy, in his usual helpful way, highlights a few key points....
Short answer: Biblically, no; practically, perhaps.
Long answer: The public ministry of the Word is sometimes divided into preaching and teaching, with various ways to distinguish between them. Adams (Adams 1982, 5‑6), Zuck (Zuck 1998, 39‑40), and Dodd (Dodd 1980, 7‑35) distinguish between preaching (κηρύσσω and eὐαγγελίζω) and teaching (διδάσκω) in terms of the audience. In this view, preaching is evangelistic activity among unbelievers while teaching is the work of moral or ethical instruction among believers. For Dodd, in particular, the distinction is related to the content, rather than the act of preaching itself (Dodd 1980, 7‑8). Singley (Singley, III 2008, 45‑46) and Prime and Begg (Prime and Begg 2004, 125; cf. Anderson 2006, 93‑94) distinguish between preaching and teaching in terms of intent or goal. In this conception, teaching has as its goal the communication of knowledge whereas preaching has as its goal the movement of the will and emotions to respond to the truth communicated.
While these distinctions may have practical value, it seems doubtful that they can be rigidly sustained from Scripture since the various words used do not...
At first, NASCAR recently instituted a new rule that prohibits drivers or crew members from going on the track or approaching another moving vehicle. I am going to go ahead and go out on a limb here and suggest that if your employees need to be instructed not to stand in the middle of a road where cars are traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour, you should consider something besides a rule, something like, oh I don’t know … sending them back to first grade. I don’t say that to make light of the death of a racer, but seriously, why do you need a rule to tell people to stay out of the way of speeding cars? Isn’t that the first thing parents teach kids when they let them out of the back yard as a toddler? Yes, parents have to supervise that for a few years, but usually that becomes unnecessary. Apparently not if you are a NASCAR driver.
At second, here’s a nice article...
In August 1998, I ordered some of my first seminary textbooks as a student. That particular semester, one item stood out above the rest. Philip Schaff’s 8-volume History of the Christian Church stood out primarily due to its price. At the time Schaff retailed for about $249. Most of us discovered that you could purchase the set for a little under $100 through CBD (and if you could find a free shipping code so much the better), but it still wasn’t a particularly cheap item. For a single guy living on a grocery budget of $10/week (yes, I did), it was a major purchase.
Fast forward some sixteen years. I still refer to Schaff from time to time. In fact, someone gave me a second set a few years ago and so now I keep one in my office and one at home for ease of reference. But I recently noticed that something significant has changed about the set. In printed form, it still costs eighty-something dollars at...
For my whole life I’ve been broadly a part of an ecclesiastical culture/movement that has been disinclined to commit either to Calvinism or Arminianism. A steady stream of articles, essays, and blog posts have kept this delicate balancing act alive for decades (for a recent and more-than-usually scholarly example, see the ongoing series here—I was going to wait for the conclusion, but I ran out of patience). I don’t believe, however, that this position is ultimately sustainable. And so my thesis in this post is simply this: the principal question in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is a fundamentally binary one: you have to choose one or the other.
Of course, I am not so naïve as to imagine that variations and nuances of the two basic positions do not exist. I am, after all, editor of a soon-to-be-released book detailing THREE perspectives on the extent of the atonement (and in my...
One of the issues that still needs clarification in Christianity is how to weigh doctrines. Christians have historically recognized that certain truths are fundamental or essential to Christianity, while others have less importance. But how do we know which doctrines are which?
In the last issue of Themelios, D. A. Carson writes an editorial offering some thoughts on what we mean when we talk about “gospel issues,” concluding that the category of “gospel issues” is helpful if it refers to “biblical and theological topics the denial of which clearly affect our understanding of the gospel adversely.” The point is that you cannot deny a certain truth or else you’ve seriously undermined the gospel. Other truths may be important, but they do not rise to the level of upmost importance like gospel issues.
I’ve heard a professor put it this way before: if you put a gun to my head and said “Deny the deity of Jesus or you’re dead,” by God’s grace I would hope to respond by saying “pull the trigger.” If you put a gun to my head and said “Deny the pre-...
Dear Fellow Servant of Jesus Christ:
It seems like every day brings more bad news in this crazy, sin-cursed world. And it seems, at least sometimes, like God’s people are dropping into defense-mode as the world becomes increasingly hostile toward Christianity. While all of this may be new to us, it is not different from the landscape that the churches in the New Testament faced. The Philippians, for example, were “granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).
The darkness of our day should make us more urgent about obedience to Christ’s commission, not less so. To that end, the theme for our fall conference this year, based on Philippians 1:27, is “Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel.” By God’s grace, we’ll gather for two days, October 16-17, to focus our attention on biblical truth about building greater unity within and between our assemblies for the sake of the gospel. Incredible gospel opportunities are all around us. We need to sharpen our focus on biblical truths that...
Michigan Cherry Coffee
Sure, you can order it online. But only Michigan coffeehouses serve freshly brewed coffee made from cherries grown just a few hours to our north. If you like coffee but haven’t tried Michigan Cherry coffee, you need to. And if you don’t like coffee, you should probably see a doctor.
James M. Hamilton Jr. With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. New Studies in Biblical Theology 32. Downers Grove: IVP, 2014.
The book of Daniel contributes to the Bible’s unfolding redemptive-historical storyline.
Like a plug in an outlet, the book joins itself to the Bible’s broader narrative, and, as the currents course through, the light of revelation shines on the way things will go until God brings about the promised consummation (see chapter 2).
The literary structure of the book of Daniel (chapter 3) demonstrates that the biblical authors used wide-angle strategies to communicate (cf. chapter 9). The books of the Bible are like cathedrals, with...
Jeramie Rinne answers that question with six statements in Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus (9Marks; Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 19–29.
You know you’re qualified to serve as an elder if . . .
Rinne unpacks each statement in his short, well-reasoned book.
Gerald Hiestand convincingly argues that the answer is yes:
Gerald Hiestand, “A Biblical-Theological Approach to Premarital Sexual Ethics: or, What Saint Paul Would Say about ‘Making Out,’” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology 1 (2014): 13–32.
This article expands on the first two chapters in Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas, Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).
Here’s the article’s thesis:
[F]idelity to the trajectory and ethic of Scripture necessitates reserving any and all sexual activity for the marriage relationship. Or to state it again, the New Testament conveys—both theologically and exegetically—that all premarital...
The latest episode of the edifying and motivating Dispatches from the Front DVD Series released last month: Day of Battle . It is set in North Africa.
Tomorrow begins what I hope will be many meetings with my four new seminary mentees. They are each in year three of our four-year MDiv-program at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Among other things we’re planning to work through many of the letters in this book:
I briefly reviewed this book in 2006 after Jenni and I read it together, and I reread it earlier this month. It’s packed with wisdom. So edifying.
The entire book is...