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November 17, 2014

Like so many other people, I have a love-hate relationship with money. I love what money can do and accomplish, and I hate how money is so fleeting. It seems like every dollar is hard-earned and easily-spent. Every dollar can be used in a million different ways and so much of life’s anxiety comes from determining how to use too little money to address too many possibilities.

When Aileen and I got married we were just twenty-one (me) and twenty-two (she) years old and earning less than $30,000 between the two of us—and this in one of the most expensive cities in North America. Since then, like most families, we have seen slow but steady increases to our income. Of course, our expenses have increased at just about the same pace as we have gone from renting a home to buying, from driving compact sedans to minivans, and from having no kids to three kids. As I look back on my life and financial history, I see a long list of mistakes Aileen and I made and a list of mistakes we managed to avoid. Here are a few of each.

Mistake Avoided: Credit Cards

There is always someone willing to extend credit to the young and foolish. Thankfully Aileen and I avoided using credit cards when we were young, and for many years either paid cash or debit for all of our purchases. Recently we have taken the opposite approach: We now buy everything on credit cards in order to maximize our points and cash-back. However, we are careful to always pay off the full balance every month. What we did well was migrating to using credit cards only when we had the finances and the self-discipline to avoid high-interest debt. We’ve never once carried a balance on our cards. Impact: Major. Advice: Avoid credit card debt at all costs.

Mistake Made: Learned Too Late

I was never formally taught how to budget or how to manage money. No school I attended offered courses or even classes on financial management. No one ever sat down with me and showed me how to draw up a budget. I had to learn it on my own. Eventually I read books by Dave Ramsey and Randy Alcorn and developed both a theology and theory of finances. Unfortunately, we had already been married for several years and had made more than a few sloppy and ignorant mistakes. Impact: Moderate. Advice: Develop that theory and theology of money as early in life as you can.

Mistake Avoided: Small House

When we were first married we spent several years renting houses while waiting for my career to advance and my salary to reach a level that would allow us to think about a mortgage (Canada has more stringent borrowing and lending standards than in the USA). Eventually we got to the point where we could think about buying a house of our own. We bought the cheapest starter home we could find in a good neighborhood in a great town—a 1,000 square-foot townhouse. At the time the location was ideal because I was working just down the road and we attended a neighborhood church. However, shortly after we bought that house I was laid off and began working much farther afield; around that same time we found a church almost a half hour away. But we have decided to stay put, even though it means a longer commute to work and church. We have owned only this one house and at this point have no plans to leave, even though it is quite crowded at times (and we haven’t yet dealt with the drama of three teenagers and only one shower). Our mortgage payments are low and we should have the house paid off years early. Impact: Major. Advice: Do not buy more house than you need, and once you buy, stay there as long as possible.

November 17, 2014

There are lots of good Kindle deals today: Old Story New by Marty Machowski (free); Think by John Piper ($0.99); The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor by John Piper & D.A. Carson ($0.99); Logic by Vern Poythress ($0.99); Ethics and Moral Reasoning by Ben Mitchell ($0.99); The Gospel and the Mind by Bradley Green ($1.99); God So Loved He Gave by Kelly Kapic ($2.99); Christians In An Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg ($3.99); The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson ($3.99); Understanding Biblical Theology by Edward Klink & Darian Lockett ($3.99); Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill ($3.99).

Today only Amazon has the 8.9” Kindle Fire on sale at $140 off (It may be a previous generation device; either way, it will be fine for reading.).

12 Struggles Singles Face - David outlines some of the struggles singles may face. He also defines singleness wider than you may be accustomed to.

Distinguishing the Spirit and the Serpent - “How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart?”

Soul Earthquake - “Our comfortable life is not normal for most Christians in most parts of the world. It wasn’t normal during the time of the New Testament. In fact, looking at history, we have to say that both the religious freedom and material comfort of America are actually quite unprecedented.”

The Unsung Heroes of Church Life - The church is made up of many members, and they are all important.

Do You Hear the People Sing? - It’s this simple: “The defining sound on Sunday morning should be the singing voices of God’s people.”

Rocky Mountain Nights - Another great timelapse video, this one showing Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

God invites us to to come as we are, not to stay as we are. —Tim Keller

Keller

 

November 16, 2014

I recently came across this powerful prayer—I can’t even remember where I found it. I wanted to share it with you as a great example of a prayer of true and deep repentance.

My God, I feel it is heaven to please Thee, and to be what Thou wouldst have me be. O that I were holy as Thou art holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as Thy Spirit is perfect! These, I feel, are the best commands in Thy Book, and shall I break them? must I break them? am I under such a necessity as long as I live here?

Woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, that I grieve this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! O if He would punish me for my sins, it would not [wound] my heart so deep to offend Him; But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me.

At times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonour this glorious God? What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings? O that I could consecrate my soul and body to His service, without restraint, for ever! O that I could give myself up to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own! or have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to His will and His love! But, alas, I cannot live and not sin.

O may angels glorify Him incessantly, and, if possible, prostrate themselves lower before the blessed King of heaven! I long to bear a part with them in ceaseless praise; but when I have done all I can to eternity I shall not be able to offer more than a small fraction of the homage that the glorious God deserves. Give me a heart full of divine, heavenly love.

November 15, 2014

I am in Norco, California for the day, speaking to college students here about a variety of topics—productivity, technology, and pornography. By tomorrow afternoon I’ll be back on home turf and back to much better weather—cold and snowy!

Here are a few Kindle deals to close out your week: 60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky ($0.99); Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer ($2.51); Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton ($3.99); God’s Love and The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul ($3.03 each).

If you ever enjoyed Garth Brooks’ music, you might enjoy this attempt to understand his appeal and his place in country music.

Read and bookmark Don Whitney’s Six Truths About Sickness. It’s one to hold onto for a rainy day.

Here are 3 Disciplines to Develop Wise Speech. “You want to speak words that deliver, delight, gladden, and heal. You’d like to be able to defuse, persuade, inspire, and influence…”

Thanks go Logos for sponsoring the blog this week; sponsors like them make this blog possible.

Scott Sauls has quite an interesting article about abortion: Reflections Following My Conversation With An Abortion Provider.

You will enjoy reading about The King Who Never Married.

A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. —J.C. Ryle

Ryle

November 14, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff is sponsored by our good friends Christian Focus. They are offering 5 prize packages this week. Each of the 5 winners will receive all of the following books:

Pleased To DwellPleased to Dwell- A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation by Peter Mead. At the centre of heaven is Christ, lovingly adored as the forever Lord of all. At the centre of Christmas is Christ, frail and cradled in the tender arms of a young mother. How can the two be put together? Heavenly glory and human frailty? That is the real wonder of Christmas. Pleased to Dwell is an energetic biblical introduction to Christmas. It is an invitation to ponder the Incarnation, and a God who was please to dwell with us.

“This book is perfect food for the heart for all of us who long for a richer understanding of the birth of The King!”

—Joseph M. Stowell (President, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

The Christmas Story - The Bible Version by Carine Mackenzie. In the corner of a stable where the animals usually eat there is a baby in a blanket lying in a box. This baby is the Son of God who has been sent to save.

In this book you will find out who needs saving and how it is that this special Child will do it.

“What parent, Sunday School teacher or Pastor would not want a Christ-centered, Biblically faithful and understandable story written for children that is also well illustrated and well written? Now we have one.”

Harry L. Reeder (Pastor of Preaching & Leadership, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama)

BackchatBackchat - Answering Christianity’s Critics by Chris Sinkinson You wish you had an answer, now you do. Sinkinson tackles dodgy science and Christian urban myths whilst reminding us that Christians are not called to win arguments but hearts. Darwin’s death bed conversion - truth or myth? Is God a moral monster? Is this really the God particle? Is the Bible an immoral book? Who was Jesus?

“When Richard Dawkins came on my radio show, I immediately knew who I wanted him to debate it with… Sinkinson, I can think of none better to provide it.”

Justin Brierley (Journalist and host of Premier Radio ‘Unbelievable’ Show)

New Atheism - A Survival Guide by Graham Veale. This summary of the arguments that dominate the current scene of thought unravels the philosophies behind modern popular and academic culture. Veale, a high school teacher, uses these arguments to motivate readers to stop and to think about their own direction and purpose, and ultimately, through consideration of the crucial questions, to find the vital answers.

“This is a great wee book which is an excellent introduction to and summary of, the current controversy surrounding the New Atheism… Highly recommended!”

David Robertson (Pastor, St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland, Dundee & author of Magnificent Obsession and The Dawkins Letters)

STSystematic Theology Volume 1 - Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in Light of the Church by Douglas F. Kelly. “I have written this first volume, thinking of my heritage as both Reformed and Catholic; gladly appropriating crucial insights of the whole people of God over the last two thousand years - Eastern Orthodox, Western Catholic, and Reformation Protestant - as they sought to live out the foundational truths of the inspired Word of God.” Douglas F. Kelly

“Douglas F. Kelly is one of the English-speaking world’s leading Reformed theologians. Here we begin to enjoy the fruits of his labors. What a feast it is.”

Ligon Duncan (Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary)

Systematic Theology Volume 2 - The Beauty of Christ - a Trinitarian Vision by Douglas F. Kelly. Douglas F. Kelly returns to the writings of saints and scholars to exemplify the beauty and the wonder of Christ, the Son of God, in this highly-anticipated second volume of systematic theology. Kelly delves through a treasure trove of Patristics, Scholastics, Reformers, Puritans, and Moderns to recover an Augustinian reverence for the beauty of Christ, to illustrate that the Father and the Spirit are most fully revealed through Him, and to make clear that His coming is the restoration of the universe.

“A joy to witness… a model to which others should aspire.”

(Carl R. Trueman ~ Paul Woolley Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Enter to Win

All you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

November 14, 2014

4 Dangers for Complementarians - Gavin Ortlund outlines 4 dangers complementarians need to face. “I don’t think it’s a sign of compromise to listen to some of their critiques. After all, some of the problems they are reacting against are real.”

Christmas Is for Sharing - It may be only a commercial, but it’s a powerful one based on a historical event.

Having Water from God for Others - A great little glimpse of the life of John Stam.

Know Your Steaks - Here’s a short video to explain what you’re eating.

Why Pastors Receive Housing Tax Exemptions - Joe Carter looks back a few years to see why pastors receive a tax exemption for housing.

How A Wound Heals - This video is just about at the right level for me. Now I (kind of) understand how a wound heals itself.

Asking Forgiveness From a Prostitute - Ed Welch: “It seems obvious, but I have never suggested it: if a man has been with a prostitute, it is right for him to ask her forgiveness. Consider this story.”

Let us humbly sit at our Lord’s feet to receive rebuke or instruction as he sees fit. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

November 13, 2014

It’s a battle we all must fight. It’s a battle we all must fight from this moment until the moment we die. It’s a battle fraught with discouragement and setbacks, yet a battle we all can and must win. It’s the battle against sin.

All throughout the New Testament we are told to put our sin to death. For example, in Colossians 3 Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” How do you do that? How do you stop a sin, and how do you stop an especially stubborn and deep-rooted sin? Is there any hope? I want to track with John Owen here (via his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation) and give a list of 9 things you need to do to overcome sin. Consider that sin that is prevalent in your life and then consider each of these 9 steps.

#1. Evaluate

Evaluate whether your sin is especially serious and deep-rooted. You have heard it said that “all sin is the same,” and there is a sense in which this is true—every single sin alienates you from God. However, some sins are more serious than others because they bring more serious consequences. The most serious sins are the ones that have gone so deep that they are now habitual; your subconscious habits now lead you to sin again and again. Consider your sin. Is it manifested in your habits? Do you sin almost an auto-pilot? Is it easier to sin than to do what is right? If it is, your sin is especially deep and you will need an extra measure of God’s help to battle it and overcome it.

#2. Fill

Fill your mind and conscience with the guilt, the weight, and the evil of your sin. Sin always tries to convince you that it isn’t very serious and that it is not worth worrying about. “Come on. Others have sinned worse. This is just a little sin. You deserve this.” But God wants you to know that your sin is eternally serious and absolutely worth worrying about. You need to consider just how dangerous your sin is, how it dishonors God, how it calls upon God to discipline you, how it makes you less useful in the Lord’s work, and even how it may show that you are not saved at all. Let that sin sit heavy in your mind and soul. Never succumb to the temptation to minimize it.

#3. Load

Load your conscience with the guilt of your sin. Compare your sin to God’s law, to what he demands of you and promises you can have if only you take hold of righteousness. Feel the guilt that you have incurred. Consider how patient and kind God has been with you in allowing you to go on without striking you down for your sin. Consider all the ways he has been gracious to you. Look to the gospel, not for forgiveness yet, but for the ultimate picture of the cost of your sin. See Christ suffering for your sin and don’t turn away your gaze. Feel all of that. Feel the weight, the guilt of it.

#4. Long

Long for deliverance from the sin. Now you are in the right frame of heart and frame of mind to desire deliverance from that sin. When you know and feel the weight of your sin, you will want to put that sin to death for the best reasons. You will no longer hate that sin merely out of fear of consequences or fear of shame or embarrassment. Now you will rightly see the cost and guilt of your sin, and you will long to be delivered from it so God can be glorified in you. Long for it. Pant for it. Cry out for it. 

#5. Consider

Consider how this sin is amplified by your nature or constitution. You need to consider whether there is something in your makeup that makes you especially prone to this sin. Some people come from whole families of alcoholics and it may be that there is some kind of predisposition to addiction within them. Or perhaps you were sinned against earlier in life and the sins that were committed against you seem to make you especially prone to a sin of your own. Though these things may be true, you cannot allow them to excuse your sin. Instead, allow them to further convince you of your weakness and your desperate need for God’s strength. Being predisposed toward a certain sin puts the burden on you to fight even harder against it, to destroy it even more completely, and to be especially vigilant in watching out for its reappearance.

#6. Contemplate

Contemplate the occasions in which this sin breaks out and guard against them. Now think about the times when you fall into this sin. What are the occasions? What happens right before you sin? What are the habits or patterns that lead to it? Think about these things, know what you do before you actually commit the sin, and stop the downward spiral long before it gets to the point of sinning. You never commit a big sin without first sliding down a long and slippery slope of little sins. So consider those little sins, identify the patterns, and learn to stop the little sins.

#7. Battle

Battle hard against the first awakenings of that sin. Never, ever allow yourself to play with sin. Never think you will sin this far, but no farther. Do not toy with sin. Do not think you can control your sin and allow only so much of it. If you do that, sin will win every time. The very second you feel that sin awakening within you, slam it down with all your force and all your strength. Cry out to God in that very moment. Call for help from other Christians in that very moment. Sin is like water held back by a dam; the moment there is even a small crack in that dam, the weight of the water pushing against it will blow a hole right through it, and the entire structure will collapse. 

#8. Meditate

Meditate on God to see his glory and your desperate inability. Think about God. Read his Word and meditate on it. Especially search out the glory of God and think about the massive distance between you and him. Think of how great he is and how little you know of him. Humble yourself by thinking great thoughts of God. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble; if you want his grace in battling sin, humble yourself by considering God and by meeting with God. You cannot think high thoughts of God without being overwhelmed by sorrow for your sin and your sinfulness.

#9. Expect

Expect to hear God speak peace to your soul (but do not speak it to yourself until he does). As you do all of this, expect that God will help you put your sin to death, and expect that he will give you peace. You will feel peace because you will be at peace. But here’s an important thing to consider: Do not speak peace to yourself until God does. It is God who has the right to speak freedom and peace to your conscience, to your heart, to your mind. Let God speak it through his Word or through his people. When he does, listen. But do not speak it to yourself too soon or you will be deluding yourself, and will go straight back into your sin. Listen for God’s affirming voice and look for success. God is for you and loves to help you put your sin to death. It is his delight.