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Tying the Knot
February 09, 2016

The best things in life are rarely the easy things, are they? The best things in life tend to require the most commitment, the most effort, and the most sacrifice. By that measure, marriage is one of the best things we can experience. Marriage brings such joy, but the joy comes only through the dedication and the work.

Aileen and I have been married for almost eighteen years now, and every now and again we start to think that we’re beginning to figure it out. One thing we always agree on, though, is that we would have benefitted from some good pre-marriage counseling. We were Christians when we got married and deeply involved in a church, but somehow were never offered any significant pre-marriage counseling. I just don’t think it was part of our church’s tradition. In fact, the only pre-marriage counsel I remember receiving was from a friend who was married a few weeks before us. The sum total of his counsel was this: “You probably want to lower your expectations for sex on your honeymoon…” That was helpful, I suppose, but hardly sufficient.

We could have used a book like Rob Green’s Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong and Lasting Marriage. Even better, we could have used a book like this and a mature married couple to go through it with us. “The purpose of this book, says Green, “is to help you prepare for a lifelong, strong, and lasting marriage.” He does that by showing first how Jesus needs to be at the center of everything. The opening chapter calls the reader to ensure that he or she is truly following Jesus. Not only that, but the reader must also be convinced that his or her future spouse is truly following Jesus. The second chapter deals with love, elevating love from culture’s trite description to the Bible’s deep and compelling example best displayed at the cross. From there Green dedicates a chapter to each of problem solving, roles and expectations, communication, finances, church community, and sexual intimacy. In other words, he offers wise, biblical counsel on the joys of marriage and also on the most common challenges.

There is much to appreciate in Green’s book. Here are a few of its strengths.

The book is practical. Tying the Knot is meant to be practical and succeeds well. Every chapter concludes with homework discussion questions that are actually engaging and helpful. They are meant to be completed individually, then shared with the fiancé(e), and finally shared with a marriage mentor. There are also advanced homework assignments for those who want to do a little more.

The book is appropriate. The chapter on sexual intimacy is discreet and appropriate. It is meant to provide the framework for sexual intimacy, but not to go too deep into the details. (It may be wise to supplement with Intended for Pleasure or another book that can help couples who are struggling with issues related to sexual intimacy and pleasure.) Green gives lots of biblical counsel in the areas of sex and money management, but rarely gives specific counsel that goes beyond the general truths Scripture offers.

The book is timely. I have long noticed that pre-marriage counseling books do not always age well. For example, some of the books I have looked at recently demand the envelope system of money management, rather difficult in an age where cash is being replaced by electronic transactions. Some of the books never mention the importance of discussing pornography or other issues unique and crucial to a twenty-first century context. Tying the Knot is up-to-date, discussing issues that are important today.

The book discusses the issue of local church commitment. It is surprisingly rare to find a pre-marriage book that discusses the importance of a serious commitment to a local church. Even Christian books seem to miss this important component of a healthy marriage. But this one does not and I was glad to see Green give it an entire chapter.

Tying the Knot comes endorsed by a long list of trusted leaders and deservedly so. Looking through the blurbs, I think I most appreciate Andy Naselli’s words: “I would have loved to read this book with my wife while we were engaged. So practical, so wise. Engaged couples, listen carefully to Rob Green.” The ultimate tests of a book like this are whether or not I would have wanted to use it for my own pre-marriage counseling and whether I would use it today in counseling an engaged couple as they prepare for marriage. In both cases my answer is that I absolutely would. For those reasons I gladly commend it to engaged couples as they prepare for marriage and for pastors as they look for a pre-marriage resource to recommend to others.

February 09, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include several volumes in the Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series at $7.99 each: Mark; Luke & Acts; John’s Gospel and LettersJames, Peter, and Jude ($7.99). Also consider Locating Atonement and Advancing Trinitarian Theology by Oliver Crisp & Fred Sanders ($7.99 each); The Gospel in Genesis by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($2.99); Marriage Matters by Winston Smith ($1.99).

Please Keep This Between Us

“Please don’t tell anyone else this, but I wanted to process something with you. If you could just keep it between you and me? I assume you know I wouldn’t want it to get around, I want to make sure people really understand my side of things and that can only happen if I communicate about it directly. You understand right?”

Women at War & the GOP

This article aptly makes the argument for why allowing women in front-line combat is a poor idea. From a biblical perspective, ERLC says that drafting women is Experimental Barbarism. And then Joe Carter has an FAQ on the whole matter.

Read Scripture: Numbers

Here’s a great little video introduction to the book of Numbers.

15 Practical Steps to Racial Reconciliation

I’ve been enjoying a lot of articles at the site of the Reformed African American Network, including this one on racial reconciliation.

This Day in 1881. 135 years ago today, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky died. *

The Rich Young Blogger

Here’s a modern take on a well-known story.

Scary New Ways the Internet Profiles You

It is good to be aware of how all that information is being used (and how it may be used in the future).

Ryle

One thief was saved that no sinner might despair, but only one, that no sinner might presume. —J. C. Ryle

Capturing Weak Women
February 08, 2016

It can be a dangerous thing to walk into a Christian bookstore. It can be a dangerous thing to listen to Christian radio or watch Christian television or attend that big conference. It can be dangerous because the Christian world is polluted by so much bad teaching. There are so many leaders who claim to be teaching truth when they are, in fact, teaching error. The healthy, growing Christian must learn to tell the difference.

This is not a new phenomenon. Wherever there have been good teachers, there have also been bad ones. We see an important example in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus. We do not know all the particulars of the situation, but from what we can reconstruct we can draw important warnings and applications for our day.

Paul has just described the depravity of humanity and warned about enemies to the church that will inevitably arise in these “last days.” He then focuses in on a certain group of enemies and their willing victims. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6–7). Paul describes both enemies and victims here—false teachers and the women they corrupt. He offers five characteristics of these women.

They are weak. Paul is not suggesting that there is an intellectual inferiority among all women but that there is a moral weakness displayed within this group of women. They are not mental simpletons but spiritual weaklings. They are people who have had opportunity to grow in the faith but have neglected to do so. Instead, they have allowed themselves to become the disciples, the captives, of untrustworthy teachers.

They are burdened by guilt. The false teachers are able to gain access to the hearts and minds of these women through the gateway of guilt. Perhaps it is guilt for sin the women committed before or since conversion, or perhaps it is guilt they feel for their inadequacy as wives, as mothers, as women, as Christians. Either way, they have never been set free from the guilt of their sin and now accept the solution offered by these false teachers.

They are led astray by evil desires. Some see these words as indicating that the false teachers are leading the women into sexual immorality, but it is more likely that Paul simply means to indicate that they are being controlled by sin rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. They are giving free rein to their evil desires. Combined with their guilty consciences, this leaves them in a vulnerable condition.

They are always learning. These women are constantly learning from the false teachers. The desire to learn and to keep learning is a good one, of course. But their kind of learning is unhealthy because it eschews firm answers and focuses instead upon unbiblical answers or no answers at all. It denies what is clear and focuses on what is speculative. It leads to grave instability.

They are never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Because these teachers do not teach what is consistent with God’s revelation, the women never arrive at the truth. Even though they are always learning, they never come to firm, settled convictions. They never appropriate the truth that can set them free from their guilt and never submit to the Spirit who can destroy their evil desires. They are weak or backslidden or perhaps lost altogether.

These women have fallen victim to false teachers. The teachers are creeping into their homes, sneaking past pastors and husbands, most likely by doing their work during the day when the women are available and others are occupied. Once in, they take these women captive, enslaving them to sin and error and despair. They promise they are teaching truth when in reality they oppose the truth. They insist they are being godly when in reality they are utterly disqualified to open their mouths.

This is a sad picture of women who have neglected God’s means of grace and protection and instead allow themselves to be victimized by false teachers. They feel the weight of sin and guilt, they feel the burden of their inadequacy before man and God, and they are, in that way, easy marks for someone who arrives with a cheap and easy gospel. These teachers are no doubt assuring them they aren’t so bad after all, that the solution is just to do more, to do better, to try harder, to follow the program.

In that way, these first-century false teachers prove themselves close relatives to twenty-first-century false teachers. If in that day the false teachers were men, today they are men and women. If in that day the teachers went from door-to-door, today they go on the printed page or the digital screen. If in that day they crept into houses when no one was looking, today they slip unseen between the covers of books or through slick videos and popular conferences. Still they seek out weak women who are burdened by guilt and led astray by evil desires, and through constant teaching—another book, another program, another conference—they promise cheap solutions. Yet somehow all that learning never leads to a knowledge of the truth, to a settled reliance upon God’s sure revelation. Somehow joy still eludes them. And, lest we think this applies to only women, we do no damage to the text to extend it to men for we, too, are vulnerable.

The harsh reality is that the greatest danger to the church usually comes from within the church. More harm is done by “Christian” books than by non-Christian ones. More harm is done by “Christian” teachers than by Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or atheists. Those false teachers are always nearby and always looking for new ways to creep in unawares. Even today they prey upon the weak and vulnerable.

February 08, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include A Loving Life by Paul Miller ($3.99); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($3.99); New from GLH Publishing is The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards ($0.99). Zondervan has a series of theological works on sale: Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem ($5.99); The Holy Spirit by Christopher Holmes ($5.99); Understanding Biblical Theology by Edward Klink ($3.99); Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner ($5.99); The Crucified King by Jeremy Treat ($3.99). 

Four Things to Help Overcome Gridlock in Your Marriage

“Have you ever found yourself in a place in your marriage where you and your spouse disagree and it seems like there is no way forward?” We have all been there at one time or another, haven’t we?

We Will Never Let Our Daughters Die for Us

Quite right: “Christian dads should never allow their little girls to die for them. This is the opposite of manhood. This is the opposite of honor.”

Why I Don’t Share The Gospel

Here’s an honest look at a common reason we don’t share the gospel.

Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways

“Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced tonight they are amicably parting ways.”

This Day in 356. 1,660 years ago today, Athanasius went into hiding after escaping five thousand soldiers who surrounded his church. *

The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Christianity Today interviews Sally Lloyd-Jones whose Jesus Storybook Bible has now sold 2 million copies.

What Ivy League Students Are Reading that You Aren’t

“If you want an Ivy League education, you could fork over $200 grand or so and go to Cornell or Harvard for four years. Alternatively, you could save a ton of cash by simply reading the same books Ivy League students are assigned.”

Thunderstorm Time-lapse

Check out this amazing time-lapse footage of a thunderstorm.

Ferguson

High degrees of Christian assurance are simply not compatible with low levels of obedience. —Sinclair Ferguson

The Garden
February 07, 2016

Why did God keep back just one thing from the people he made? Why would he make people in his image, then give them one prohibition? What was the purpose in that tricky Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Sinclair Ferguson addresses this in The Whole Christ.

I am giving you everything in this garden. Go and enjoy yourselves. But just before you head off, I have given you all of this because I love you. I want you to grow and develop in your understanding and in your love for me. So this is the plan:

There is a tree here, “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Don’t eat its fruit.

I know—you want to know why, don’t you?

Well, I have made you as my image. I have given you instincts to enjoy what I enjoy. So in one sense you naturally do what pleases me and simultaneously gives you pleasure too.

But I want you to grow in trusting and loving me just for myself, because I am who I am.

You can only really do that if you are willing to obey me, not because you are wired to, but because you want to show me that you trust and love me.

If you do that you will find that you grow stronger and that your love for me deepens.

Trust me, I know.

That’s why I have put that tree there. I so want you to be blessed that I am commanding you to eat and enjoy the fruit of all these trees. That’s a command! But I have another command. What I want you to do is one simple thing: don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.

I am not asking you to do that because the tree is ugly—actually it is just as attractive as the other trees. I don’t create ugly, ever! You won’t be able to look at the fruit and think, That must taste horrible. It is a fine-looking tree. So it’s simple. Trust me, obey me, and love me because of who I am and because you are enjoying what I have given to you. Trust me, obey me, and you will grow.

February 06, 2016

This has been a bit of a slow week for Kindle deals. That is, in part, because so many of the deals cycle on a regular basis and I try not to link to them if they’ve come up recently. There should be some new ones on Monday. Until then, here’s some reading for you:

Unearthing Treasures of Gilgamesh

“Out of the destruction and looting [in Iraq], and partly because of it, emerge striking gains in knowledge of our oldest literary inheritance.”

What’s So Special About Singing on Sundays?

This is a good one from Bob Kauflin. He focuses on what makes singing in church different from every other kind of singing.

The Ultimate Unsolicited Redesign

Here’s an interview with Adam Lewis Greene who Kickstarted a beautiful redesign of the Bible. “The expected form of the Bible almost across the board for the last 200 years or so has not been conducive to appreciating biblical literature as literature. Rather, the Bible is designed to be an easily-navigated theological encyclopedia.”

Clippings

If you read with Kindle, you may be interested in Clippings, a service that does a great job of extracting and formatting your notes and highlights. You can also use it to copy your notes right over to Evernote or other programs.

The Deep Ditches of Doubt

Here are a few things to remember in those times you stumble into the deep ditches of doubt.

This Day in 1951. Sam Storms turns 65 today! You can wish Sam a Happy Birthday on Twitter.

Psallos

Have you ever checked out Psallos? It is a concept album based on the book of Romans.

CBMW Preconference

If you are heading to Together for the Gospel, you might be interested in CBMW’s preconference. They’ve got quite a list of speakers for you to hear.

Canadians Together for the Gospel

Also, if you are from Canada or interested in ministry in Canada, be sure to come to this breakout.

Why the Bible Is Hard to Understand—and What You Can Do About It

My thanks goes to Zondervan for sponsoring the blog this week with “Why the Bible Is Hard to Understand—and What You Can Do About It.”

Lewis

A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it. —C.S. Lewis

February 05, 2016

Courses

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Zondervan Academic Online Courses, who was also the blog’s sponsor for the week. They have just one prize to offer this year, but it's a really good one.

In the past, going to school usually required a major life change—quitting your job, moving across the country, uprooting your family, and sometimes even significant financial difficulty. The decision to undertake theological and biblical education at a college or seminary is an important calling. Many are still called to make it. But the reality is, for many, the difficulty of going back to school has put theological education out of reach.

With the launch of Zondervan Academic Online Courses, you now have access to a quality theological education at an affordable price—from the comfort of your home or office.

This week, one person will win access to all Zondervan Academic Online Courses through the end of the year. This includes access to the seven courses available today, plus sixteen additional courses as they are released in the coming months, including two theology courses taught by Wayne Grudem. This is a great opportunity for you to learn and grow!

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.