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Flipping God the Bird
August 24, 2015

Gestures are funny things. Gestures have no intrinsic meaning, but they do have very important assigned meanings. Here in North America the simple thumbs-up gesture means “well done,” but in some other cultures it carries a meaning that is vulgar and offensive. Or just think of George W. Bush at his 2005 inauguration flashing the “hook ‘em horns” gesture of the Texas Longhorns. Italians were shocked because they use that same gesture to indicate that a man’s wife is cheating on him. The gesture is the same, but it carries a very different meaning.

In many places in the world, elevating the middle finger is about as offensive as gestures get. It is a symbol of utter scorn, a symbol associated with the most offensive four-letter word. People flash it to display utter contempt toward another person. It is almost a dare: This is what I think of you; what are you going to do about it?

I think we understand humanity best when we understand that human beings are born with our middle finger extended toward God. We grow up with our middle finger extended toward God. We die with our middle finger extended toward God. At least we do unless God intervenes and lowers it by his grace.

Human beings hate God. We are born hating God, we die hating God, and we live our short lives hating God. This hatred is the motivation behind the way we interact with God and with what God has made.

We hate God so we hate his creation. The reason we treat the earth badly is not that we hate the earth or are even apathetic about it. It’s that we hate God. We display our contempt toward God by thinking too little of his creation, by polluting it recklessly, by stewarding it poorly. We treat it badly as a display of our scorn for God.

We hate God so we hate his creatures. We only kick the dog because at that moment we can’t kick God. We only treat animals badly because we don’t know how to treat God badly. We don’t actually have a beef with them, we have a beef with God and take it out on his creatures.

Most importantly, we hate God so we hate his image. God tells us that there is just one creature who is made in his image and in his likeness—human beings. The closest we can get to harming or destroying God is harming or destroying human beings. This explains so many of the headlines we read every day. What is abortion but humanity elevating our middle finger toward God by gleefully destroying the creatures that God loves most? What is euthanasia but people flipping God the bird while ending a life created by God? What are gay marriage and no-fault divorce and the pornography plague but people looking God in the eye, elevating that middle finger, and daring him to do something about it? We know we cannot harm God, but we do know we can harm people.

Humanity is in a state of open warfare with God. We cannot get at God (except for that one time we could, and we crucified him). But we can, and will, get at anything that comes from God and anything that reflects God.

Thank God for his grace. Thank God for his grace which has brought peace between God and those who have put their faith in Christ. Thank God for his grace which has removed our scorn and contempt and allowed us, those who are his, to now live for the good of all he has made, and the glory of all that he is.

Image credit: Shutterstock

August 24, 2015

This week Crossway is offering John Piper’s “The Swans Are Not Silent” series at just $3.99 each. These are excellent short biographies of key Christian figures. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy; The Hidden Smile of God; The Roots of Endurance; Contending for Our All; Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ. You will also find Heaven by Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson for $3.99, and Matt Chandler’s To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain for free.

You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

“The past fifty years have seen massive gains in productivity, the invention of countless labor-saving devices, and the mass entry of women into the formal workforce.” So why do we all work so many hours?

Reflections on a Planned Parenthood Protest

John Piper reflects on Saturday’s Planned Parenthood protests. You may also want to read this article from a different source but dealing with the same subject: Now We Know Why Reporters Won’t Cover The Planned Parenthood Videos.

Hurricane Katrina Photos

This is very interesting. “10 years on, Getty Images photographer Mario Tama has been back to New Orleans to revisit the scenes of his iconic images to see how the once obliterated areas have changed.” He has done so through some during and after photos.

A New Song: “We Are Not Overcome” by Bifrost Arts is a song you may enjoy. We have adapted (simplified) it for use in our worship services and it is quickly becoming a favorite.

Keep on Welcoming

There’s some wisdom here on welcoming people to your church. This is the one I most needed to hear: “Weeks three, four, and beyond are also key.”

Ashley Madison: Faithfulness

There are some important takeaways in Mark Jones’ article on the Ashley Madison fiasco. “Basically, Paul describes ‘Ashley Madison’ long before computer hackers made many of us aware that such a website existed.” Also read Scotty Smith’s meditative prayer based on Proverbs 7.

Go, and Be

This little tribute to the Scottish highlands may be a little bit overdone but, oh my, is the scenery ever beautiful!

Washer

The true convert does not receive the gospel as an addition to his previous life, but in exchange for it. —Paul Washer

John Piper on Parenting
August 23, 2015

John Piper recently addressed the question, Does Proverbs Promise My Child Will Not Stray? in a recent episode of Ask Pastor John. As you might have guessed, the question was based on Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Piper ended the episode by sharing these 9 truths for parents to remember and follow:

1) In general, bringing up children God’s way will lead them to eternal life. In general, that is true.

2) This reality would include putting our hope in God and praying earnestly for our wisdom and for their salvation all the way to the grave. Don’t just pray until they get converted at age 6. Pray all the way to the grave for your children’s conversions and for the perseverance of their apparent conversions.

3) Saturate them with the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

4) Be radically consistent and authentic in your own faith — not just in behavior, but in affections. Kids need to see how precious Jesus is to mom and dad, not just how he is obeyed or how they get to church or how they read devotions or how they do duty, duty, duty. They need to see the joy and the satisfaction in mom and dad’s heart that Jesus is the greatest friend in the world.

5) Model the preciousness of the gospel. As we parents confess our own sins and depend on grace, our kids will say, “Oh, you don’t have to be perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. They love grace. They love the gospel because Jesus forgives their sins. And I will know then he can forgive my sins.”

6) Be part of a Bible-saturated, loving church. Kids need to be surrounded by other believers and not just mom and dad.

7) Require obedience. Do not be lazy. There are so many young parents today that appear so lazy. They are not willing to get up and do what needs to be done to bring this kid into line. So we should follow through on our punishments and follow through especially on all of our promises of good things that we say we are going to do for them.

8) God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids and there would hardly be any Christians in the world if he didn’t save them out of failed families.

9) Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business and we must roll all of that onto him.

August 22, 2015

Today we will see protests against Planned Parenthood all across America. If you have time this morning, why don’t you consider attending. They will run from 9am to 11am, and you can find location information at ProtestPP.com.

What Causes Cage-Stage Calvinism?

We’ve all seen it, I think. Most of us have probably fallen into it at one time or another. R.C. Sproul Jr. explains why and how.

The Danger of Comparison

I am one of those people who is prone to the comparison trap, so I enjoyed this article. “Jealousy dethrones God’s sovereignty by feeling entitled to another person’s blessings in life. Jealousy makes everyone a thief of what you should have.”

How Big Is a Blue Whale’s Heart?

This video will show you. The answer, not surprisingly, is “very big.”

3 Things to Remember Before You Criticize Someone’s Theology

Justin Taylor offers 3 important reminders. “Critique done poorly—whether through overstatement, misunderstanding, caricature—is a losing proposition for all. It undermines the credibility of the critic and deprives the one being criticized from the opportunity to improve his or her position.”

Meditation and Sermon Preparation

“The difference between a message that is a ‘Bible study’ and a message that is a ‘sermon’ is the additional meditative substance in the latter, by which God speaks through His word, and through the preacher.”

Mastering the Giant Comma

One of my weaknesses in writing is properly using semicolons. So I needed to watch this.

Why You Need a Fighting Faith

Thanks to P&R for sponsoring the blog this week. Sponsors are integral to the ongoing operation of this site, so I am grateful for each one.

Spurgeon

I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him. —C.H. Spurgeon

August 21, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed. They are long-time sponsors of Free Stuff Fridays and, as they always do, they are giving away 5 great prize packages this week. There will be 5 winners and each of them will receive the following 3 books:

  • Recovering RedemptionWhat Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung - Retail price $12.99
  • Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by R. Kent Hughes & W. Carey Hughes - Retail Price $16.99
  • Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change by Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer - Retail Price $16.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (August 21 - 24) on the following three products:

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.

Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online
August 21, 2015

You have heard by now that the site AshleyMadison.com was hacked and that millions of users had their information made public. Ashley Madison is a company that exists to facilitate (and even guarantee) adulterous relationships, and now those people who wanted to be quietly unfaithful to their spouses have been suddenly outed. As I read the headlines and heard of some of those caught up in the scandal (including, sadly, Josh Duggar), I thought back to one of the first times in Internet history that we had to grapple with the power of the data we leave behind us every time we use the Web. For that we will need to go back to 2006.

In 2006, America Online made an epic misjudgment which taught us a valuable lesson: Who you are when you are alone and online, that is who you really are—no more, and no less. As part of a research project headed Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, AOL made available to the public a massive amount of data culled from their search engine — the search history of 650,000 users over a three-month period. This totaled some 21 million searches. Before releasing the data, they anonymized it, stripping away user names and replacing names with numbers, so that a user with a name like timc2000 simply became User #75636534. Yet because of the often-personal nature of the data, it did not take long before many of those abstract numbers were linked to real names, an obvious and serious violation of privacy and confidentiality. Within days, AOL realized its mistake and withdrew the data, but already it had been copied and uploaded elsewhere on the Internet, where today it lives on in infamy.

Some of the search histories were dark and disturbing, others unremarkable in every way. Still others were strangely amusing. It was often possible to reconstruct a person’s life, at least in part, from what they searched for over a period of time. Consider this user:

  • shipping pets 2006-03-01 16:36:48
  • does ata ship pets 2006-03-01 17:10:35
  • continental.com 2006-03-01 21:34:53
  • pet shipping 2006-03-01 21:35:11
  • broken bones in cat 2006-03-04 03:31:53
  • cat has broken bones above base of tail vet said it will heal on its own
    2006-03-04 03:32:53
  • cat broken bones and diarreah 2006-03-04 03:58:24
  • cat health 2006-03-04 14:10:22
  • cat has broken bones wasn’t bleeding before but now is and now she
    can’t defecate too 2006-03-04 14:16:35
  • mucous blood diarreah in cat 2006-03-04 14:22:47

It is not too difficult to understand what transpired through this three-day history of searches. The search engine data tells a sad story about a person and his or her cat.

This glut of user data raised a nearly endless number of questions and concerns. Primarily, it brought awareness to the fact that search engines know you better than you may like. Actually, they probably know you better than you know yourself in some ways. You tend to forget what you have searched for in the past; they don’t. We may like to think that our searches are just quick queries, harmless and pointless inquiries known only to us.

Here is an AOL user whose searches tell a sad story (for sake of space, I have stripped out a large number of searches):

  • body fat calliper 2006-03-01 18:54:10
  • curb morning sickness 2006-03-05 08:53:23
  • get fit while pregnant 2006-03-09 18:49:37
  • he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:01
  • you’re pregnant he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:49
  • online degrees theology 2006-03-11 04:05:24
  • online christian colleges 2006-03-11 04:13:33
  • foods to eat when pregnant 2006-03-12 09:38:02
  • baby names 2006-03-14 19:11:10
  • baby names and meanings 2006-03-14 20:01:27
  • physician search 2006-03-23 10:20:04
  • best spa vacation deals 2006-03-27 20:04:09
  • maternity clothes 2006-03-28 09:28:25
  • pregnancy workout videos 2006-03-29 10:01:39
  • buns of steel video 2006-03-29 10:12:38
  • what is yoga 2006-03-29 12:17:31
  • what is theism 2006-03-29 12:18:30
  • hindu religion 2006-03-29 12:18:56
  • yoga and hindu 2006-03-29 12:32:05
  • is yoga alligned with christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:18
  • yoga and christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:42
  • abortion clinics charlotte nc 2006-04-17 11:00:02
  • greater carolinas womens center 2006-04-17 11:40:22
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • roe vs. wade 2006-04-17 22:22:07
  • effects of abortion on fibroids 2006-04-18 06:50:34
  • abortion clinic charlotte 2006-04-18 15:14:03
  • symptoms of miscarriage 2006-04-18 16:14:07
  • water aerobics charlotte nc 2006-04-18 19:41:27
  • abortion clinic chsrlotte nc 2006-04-18 21:45:39
  • total woman vitamins 2006-04-20 16:38:16
  • engagement rings 2006-04-20 16:58:37
  • high risk abortions 2006-04-20 17:53:49
  • abortion fibroid 2006-04-20 17:55:18
  • benefits of water aerobics 2006-04-20 23:25:50
  • wedding gown styles 2006-04-26 19:37:34
  • recover after miscarriage 2006-05-22 18:17:53
  • marry your live-in 2006-05-27 07:25:45

This woman goes from searching about pregnancy, to realizing that the father does not want to keep the baby, to researching abortion clinics, to researching whether she can, according to her faith, choose abortion, to dealing with a miscarriage. And at the end of it all, life goes on and she seems ready to be married.

What is so amazing about these searches is the way people transition seamlessly from the normal and mundane to the outrageous and perverse. They are, thus, an apt reflection of real life. The user who is in one moment searching for information about a computer game may in the next be looking for the most violent pornography he can imagine. Back and forth it goes, from information about becoming a foster parent to the search for incestual pornography. One user went from searching for preteen pornography to searching for games appropriate for a youth group. Others, spurned lovers, sought out ways of exacting revenge while still others grappled with the moral implications of cheating on their spouses. These searches are a glimpse into the hearts of the people who made them.

And now millions of Ashley Madison users have been outed in much the same way, except this time their actual names and personal information are sitting right there alongside their data. They have been exposed as people who went looking for adultery. And the whole world is sitting by, looking on with an amused eye. Spouses are searching through the data wondering if even their husband, their wife, may have been involved. Gossip blogs are combing the data looking for headlines.

One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.

(Much of this article is excerpted from my book The Next Story. Image credit: Shutterstock)

August 21, 2015

New from GLH Publishing is a Kindle edition of Jonathan Edward’s must-read book Religious Affections at just $0.99. Also consider Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper ($0.99); Pleased to Dwell by Peter Mead ($5.64).

Planned Parenthood: Invitation, Explanation, Indignation

John Piper: “I am writing with an urgent invitation, a personal explanation, and renewed indignation.” He calls you to protest Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

Why I Am Going to Protest Planned Parenthood

In a similar vein, J.A. Medders explains why he will be participating in this weekend’s Planned Parenthood protests.

How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election

Here’s an interesting fact of the modern world: “Google has the ability to drive millions of votes to a candidate with no one the wiser.”

Is There Any Demand for Same-Sex Marriage?

Joe Carter: “One question the Court ignored—and which few people ever truly considered—was whether there is an actual demand for same-sex marriage.”

This Date in 1741: George Frideric Handel began to compose his great work Messiah. He would finish the work 23 days later. It would become his most famous composition and, as you know, is still treasured today. *

Ad Blockers and the Nuisance at the Heart of the Modern Web

This article dives into the problem at the heart of the modern web: So many banner ads are ugly, evil, and intrusive, and yet they are also at the heart of the online economy.

Snake Island

Did you know that there’s an island off the coast of Brazil that has so many venomous snakes on it that people are forbidden from even docking there?

Campbell

Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome temptation. —G. Campbell Morgan