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A Model of Determination
July 22, 2016

Today I want us to travel together into the past, to England in the late 1700’s. King George III is on the throne, though this is before the madness that would mark his final days. The Industrial Revolution is well underway and life is changing as people begin a great migration to the cities to pursue those new factory jobs. On the other side of the Atlantic the American colonies have recently declared their independence.

Let’s zoom in on the year 1789 and the city of London. A well-dressed man walks into the British parliament and he delivers a daring speech. He makes a bold proposal. He wants to bring to an end a great evil, an evil he believes is staining his entire nation.

At this time in history, England is a nation that not only allows slavery, but actually condones it and supports it. In fact, the English economy has come to depend on it. British ships are constantly sailing down the African coast and as they go they are capturing men, women and children and shipping them across the Atlantic into a life of slavery. Countless thousands of these slaves will die along the way. Families are ripped apart; women are treated savagely; children are torn from their parents. These slaves are regarded as less than human, unworthy of rights and freedoms. North American plantations are producing vast wealth and making England a rich nation, but only at this cost—the cost of allowing and advocating slavery. Slavery is so much a part of the economy that almost nobody believes that anything can ever change.

WilberforceBut one man does. One man believes he can make a difference. His name is William Wilberforce. Wilberforce had become a member of Parliament in 1780 when he was only twenty-one years old. Five years later he experienced a great change in his life when he read a Bible and came to believe that he was a sinner who needed to be saved by Jesus Christ. That experience forever transformed his life and now, just 4 years later, he has come to see slavery as a great and reprehensible evil and he will dedicate his life to ending it. He believes that whether a person has dark skin or light skin, whether he was born in Africa or England, all are equally created in the image of God. All human beings have equal dignity and worth because all are equally made in the image of the Creator. None has the right to enslave another.

And so this man stands in front of his fellow members of Parliament and makes a speech in which he pleads justice for slaves and he proclaims that slavery is immoral, it is wrong. He is being very strategic here. He is not proposing that slavery be done away with all together. Not yet. There will be time for that. First he simply proposes that the slave trade be regulated and curtailed. Yet even with this modest proposal he is defeated. It is not even close.

He is defeated and slavery continues. Those ships continue to steal thousands and thousands of people and take them far away. But Wilberforce will not stop fighting. He will not go away. He brings bills again in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, 1805. And every time he is defeated. He is defeated by filibuster. He is defeated by illness. He is defeated by unrest and rebellion among slaves. He is defeated by international interests that simply refuse to allow the slave trade to die. He is defeated by plain old bigotry.

But still he does not give up. He does not surrender. His enemies come up with a strategy: If we can destroy the man we can destroy the cause. Even when great personal attacks come against him, even when people try to destroy his name and reputation, he persists. He fights on.

Much later he reflects on this time and says, “So enormous, so dreadful did the slave trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.

His first success comes in 1807, almost 20 years after he first began his crusade. In this year his persistence leads to a bill to abolish the slave trade in the British West Indies. Now, suddenly, the slave trade is illegal. This does nothing for those who are already slaves, but it is a start—an important start. And that day, too, will come. Wilberforce will live to see the triumph of his cause when slavery is finally and completely abolished. He is a man who changed the world by staying committed to his cause, by staying committing to his principles, by staying committed to what he knew God had called him to do.

We look back on William Wilberforce today and see his life and times as a great triumph of good over evil. Rightly do we regard him as a heroic figure. But his life was one of constant battles and discouragement. The one great victory came only after many, many crushing defeats. It was his persistence that changed minds, that changed his nation, that changed the course of history. If he had grown weary, if he had lost his confidence in his cause, he would not have rewritten history. He would not have been the hero he is today.

William Wilberforce exemplified one great but rare characteristic, one great but rare Christian trait. He was a model of determination. A model of persistence. A model of perseverance as he pursued what he knew God had called him to do. God had given him a desire and an opportunity and he persisted until he had completed the work God had called him to.

(Sources: William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity, Amazing Grace)

July 22, 2016

Westminster Books is offering a great discount on Behold Your God, a video series that features some excellent teachers and preachers. You may also want to check out their most recent list of book deals.

On the Kindle front I couldn’t see much beyond Choosing To See by Mary Beth Chapman which may interest some. Those who enjoy historical fiction may appreciate Douglas Bond’s new book The Revolt. Click here to see the deals.

Divine Simplicity and the Trinitarian Controversy

“Given the confusion that has surrounded the recent trinitarian debate, I thought it would be useful to find someone who could write a relatively straight forward post explaining the different terms being tossed around in this debate so far.”

7 Ways to Deal with Doubt

Michael Patton offers seven principles to consider when dealing with doubt.

14 Tools to Help You Avoid Distractions

“As hard as it might be to avoid every kind of distraction, though, at least we have tools that can give us a boost when our willpower starts to waver. Try one of these distraction-busting tools to get back to doing what matters most.”

Daily Slogging in the Power of the Spirit

Ray Ortlund: “I am not impressed by young pastors who seem too eager to publish books and speak at big events and build ‘a platform.’ They are doing the work of the Lord, which is good. But I’m not impressed. What impresses me is my dad’s daily slogging, year after year, in the power of the Spirit, with no big-deal-ness as the goal or the payoff.”

Rome Burned But Nero Never Fiddled

Timothy Paul Jones corrects a little piece of history.

This Day in 1926. 90 years ago today, J.I. Packer was born. What a blessing he has been to the church… 

Am I a Noisy Gong?

“Ministry would be fine if it weren’t for all the people.” That line always gets a laugh but it also reveals something concerning. Aaron Menikoff has a good article about it.

Gender, Marriage, Hell’s Gates, and Your Church Documents

Churches need to take note: “Churches presently enjoy a number of significant protections, but there is reason to believe that churches will be vulnerable to a variety of legal challenges in the years ahead, as anti-discrimination laws are updated following Obergefell. Thankfully, there are some simple things we can do to protect our gospel work against some charges of discrimination.”

Flashback: Theological Heroes and Villains

I want my heroes to be good, only good, and my villains to be bad, only bad. I can deal with this. The trouble comes when I see vices in my heroes and virtues in my villains. That is where it all gets complicated.

Thomas

Sin tastes sweet but turns bitter in our stomachs. Holiness often tastes bitter but turns sweet in our stomachs. —Gary Thomas

July 21, 2016

You know you ought to pray. You know that God invites and even commands you to pray. He loves to hear from you, loves to know you. Yet there are times when your soul feels bone dry, when even opening your mouth to pray seems an impossibility. What do you do?

Just Pray

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in those times is to even make the effort to pray. Just pray. It is always the right thing to do. Pray short if you need to. Tell God you are struggling to pray. But somehow just pray.

  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:17-19)

Pray the Gospel

Try some of these passages, all of which Jerry Bridges recommended as keys to his prayer life. As you pray them, confess who you are and remind yourself what God has done in Christ for you. Kindle even a small flame in your soul with the warmth of the Good News.

  • As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
  • “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
  • All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
  • There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Pray Boldly

Boldness can be hard to come by in times of spiritual dullness or crisis, but boldness is the Christian’s birthright. Pray boldly, confident that Christ has opened the way to the Father and all of his blessings.

  • Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Pray Confidently

Pray boldly but also pray confidently, relying not on your own words or wisdom, but on the Spirit’s intercession.

  • In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Pray for Wisdom

Pray acknowledging your lack of wisdom not only to face your situation but even to know how to pray about it. Pray for wisdom because, as God says:

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

Pray to Believe and Accept God’s Promises

The promises of God are good and sweet and comforting if only you will believe and accept them. Pray that God will help you to!

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Pray for Peace

God is the giver of the truest, deepest soul peace. Pray that he will grant his peace to your soul.

  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Pray for Faith to Know that God Is With You

Finally, pray for the faith to believe that God does not leave or forsake the ones bought with his Son’s blood. He is always near, always with you.

  • Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

July 21, 2016

I have returned home from my week-long writer’s workshop in England. It was a very interesting time and at some point, perhaps on the other side of this jet lag, I’ll let you know about it. But for now, enjoy these articles:

Christian Audio $4.99 Sale

Christian Audio has a whole load of books at just $4.99 each and quite a few of them are even new releases. (Also, don’t forget about the bundle I created with them to get you started on a free trial membership).

CBMW’s New President

Yesterday CBMW announced that Denny Burk has become the new president. Here he talks about his vision for the organization.

Which Countries Have the Most Immigrants?

There’s lots of politicizing in this article, but also lots of interesting facts. Naturally, I found the comments about Canada especially interesting.

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer

Melissa offers a few common sense tips on prioritizing prayer even as a busy mom.

As Seemed Best to Them…

And, on the subject of parenting, Nick Batzig offers some helpful thoughts as well. “Most of us would admit, if we were honest, that we often wish that the Scriptures were a detailed handbook for what to do in each and every interaction with our children. While the Bible speaks both directly and indirectly to every aspect of parenting, it does not give us a detailed checklist that–if husbands and wives would simply consult in each and every interaction with their children–would guarantee a favorable outcome.”

Back to the Early Church?

“While there were some great things happening then, I’m not so sure that I am eager to get back to the early church days. They, too, had their problems. Here are a few reasons why we might put the brakes on the glamorization of the early church.”

When We Say, “I Forgive You”

“What do we mean we say, ‘I forgive you’? More importantly, do we mean what the Bible means? When we really dig into Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness, we find that it stretches and challenges us, forcing us into the uncomfortable territory of being more like Jesus.”

This Day in 1936. 80 years ago today, American missionary to the Congo, Bill Chesney, was born. He would be martyred by rebel groups at the age of 28. *

Why Red Light Cameras Don’t Work

Or, at least, why they aren’t an awfully good solution overall.

Flashback: 7 Different Ways to Read a Book

Just like the title says: Here are 7 different ways to approach a book.

MacArthur

The single greatest support of truth in your preaching is the power of an exemplary life. —John MacArthur

July 20, 2016

You, Christian, are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God makes his habitation within you. He has joyfully, willingly, come to you so you can be near to him. This knowledge, this wonder, has powerful consequences.

It gives assurance. If the Holy Spirit has made his home within you, you can be sure that he will never abandon you. Who or what could ever drive God out of his dwelling place? Is Satan powerful enough to displace the Spirit? Of course not. Is your sin or your desire to sin or your unbelief enough to drive him out once he has come in? Never! Knowing that you have the Spirit within allows you to live free from the terror of abandonment, free from the fear that God will give up on you. God has not only chosen to do something to you from without but has also chosen to take up residence within.

It gives hope. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is meant to give you hope in the battle against sin because as committed as you may be to battling sin, as much as you see the corruption and vileness of indwelling sin, you can rest assured that the Spirit sees it much more clearly and is much more committed to battling it than you are. You do not fight the battle against sin on your own, with only your own motivation, with only your own strength. No, you fight alongside the Spirit who is there within you, seeing the sin, hating the sin, longing for that sin to be destroyed so his dwelling place can be swept free of all defilement.

It gives motive. It gives you the motive you need to put sin to death, to attack it wherever it exists, and to tear it up by its roots no matter how deep they go. Every Christian wants this dwelling of the Spirit to be worthy of the Spirit; every Christian wants the Spirit’s dwelling to be undefiled by sin. When you know and believe that the Spirit has wonderfully and willingly taken up residence within, you have a powerful motive to full-out pursue the holiness he so loves.

Christian, you are indwelled by God himself. In the Old Testament God’s people had to go to the tabernacle and temple to experience the nearness of God. When Jesus was on the earth the people had to be in his presence to experience the nearness of God. Today each Christian experiences the deepest and most immediate intimacy, the intimacy that comes when God abides within.

July 20, 2016


Genie, the Feral Child

“More than four decades after she appeared in a Los Angeles County welfare office, her fate is unclear – but she has changed the lives of those who knew her…”

Recovering the Priority of Personal Holiness

“What gave John Owen success in ministry was not so much his oratory skill, nor his evangelistic zeal, nor even his love for the people he shepherded. John Owen was used mightily by God in all these ways because he was a man characterized by personal holiness.”

Does A Husband Have the Authority?

Mary Kassian engages some questions posed by a leading egalitarian: “Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s phone away, preventing her from making calls? Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s car keys? House keys? Does a husband have the authority to physically prevent his wife from leaving the home? Does a husband have the authority to take the wife’s personal property without consent?”

A Word About Polite Abusers

On a similar note, it is important to make these distinctions: “Not all abuse evidences itself in bruises, and not all abusers manifest their desire for control with fists.”

8 Reasons to Preach Through Books of the Bible

Jared Wilson: “While there’s no need to be dogmatic about this kind of sermon delivery, and while I think taking time for short topical sermon series or strategic ‘stand-alone’ messages can be good and helpful, I do think it is generally wise for a pastor not just to preach expositionally, but to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible. I think every preacher ought to endeavor to feed his flock this way. And here are eight reasons why…”

This Day in 1969. 47 years ago today, Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian elder and astronaut, took communion on the moon during the Apollo 11 landing. *

The Terrifying Danger Of Falling Off My Own Platform

No one is too big or too small to consider important lessons. “It’s not just those who preach to big crowds, write bestselling books, or are sought-after conferences speakers. Countless other pastors and ministry leaders crash every day. We’ll likely never hear of them, but I’d guess the process is much the same in every case.”

The Evangelical Drug of Choice

Ponder this: “While many evangelicals are quick to condemn alcohol and drug abuse, our drug of choice has become entertainment and fantasy. It softly distracts and weakens Christians daily.”

Flashback: With Purity and Dignity

“The area of lust, especially as it is so commonly expressed in pornography, may be the clearest example of the value of putting sin to death as an expression of love for others.”

Lawson

At the core of any healthy congregation is a vibrant exposition of God’s Word. —Steven Lawson

July 19, 2016

I love church history and believe deeply in its importance. Far too often have I seen the consequences when Christians—individuals, churches, movements—become unhinged from the history of the church, unmoored from the life and work of those who have gone before us. Yet church history is so expansive, so daunting, and often so badly told that sometimes it seems easier to ignore it altogether. For that reason I am thankful to see Church History 101, a short work somewhere between a book and booklet that represents the combined efforts of Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin.

Church History 101 began with Sinclair Ferguson during his pulpit ministry—he prepared the material as an introduction to church history meant for his own congregation. That material was later revised by Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin as they prepared The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible where the same material is printed. And now it is also available as this short, readable book.

In the introduction the authors offer five reasons to study church history: 1) It continues to record the history of God’s faithful dealings with his people and it records Christ’s ongoing work in the world. 2) We are told by God to remember what he has done and to make it known to those who follow us. 3) Church history “helps to illuminate and clarify what we believe” and in that way allows us to evaluate our beliefs and practices against historic teaching. 4) It safeguards against error by showing us how Christians have already responded to false teaching. 5) And finally it gives us heroes and mentors to imitate as we live the Christian life. In this way it promotes spiritual growth and maturation.

With these benefits. With that in mind they move into what is a quick and brief overview of Christian history. The format is very simple: Each century from the first to the twentieth receives its own chapter and they are all just about 5 pages long. Each of the chapters introduces key characters and movements though obviously only in a very brief way.

So, for example, the chapter on the thirteenth century sets the context of the Crusades and monasticism, then focuses attention on the key characters Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas. “[Francis] gave himself to a life of simplicity and a great concern for preaching repentance as the way into the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he imbibed many of the serious theological errors of Roman Catholicism, Francis sought to point the church back to a simplicity of lifestyle.” As for Aquinas, they discuss his two major works and conclude “As able as Thomas was in many respects and as sincere as many of the monks no doubt were, later reformers would come to see theological problems associated with Thomas’s Semi-Pelagianism and the practical problems of the Western religious orders.”

The chapter on the sixteen century, the century of Reformation, focuses almost entirely on Luther, gives a one-paragraph nod to Calvin, and simply lists the other Reformers. The chapter that follows tells of the Reformation in England and the one after that focuses on the Great Awakening.

All-in-all, I think this chapter-per-century format succeeds well. Obviously there is so much that cannot be said. Obviously even those things that are said are said with brevity. And yet the format works in providing a brief introduction to the dominant themes of each century of the long and storied history of Christ’s church. Church History 101 succeeds as something like an annotated timeline and as a teaser for further study. My hope is that people will read it and find that it whets their appetite for further, deeper study.

July 19, 2016

I have been a guest on a couple of different podcasts recently: Tech Reformation where we discussed social media, news, and blogging. Then I was also on These Go to 11 where they asked me questions to American politics but from a Canadian perspective.

The Immaturity of Addiction

“When someone begins to abuse substances repeatedly, they are often exchanging responsibility for pleasure.” This can be seen as an expression of immaturity.

Lemonade Stands Ethics: Serious Questions and Answers

This is just serious enough to make the point. “It’s that time of year when we again consider Christian morality and lemonade stands. Below find answers to common questions.”

The Legacy of One-Point Calvinism and Casual Churchianity

John Piper: “I grew up among a few million ‘one-point Calvinists’ who misunderstood their one point: ‘once saved, always saved.’ In general, it meant, if Johnny asked Jesus into his heart at age six, left the church at sixteen, mocked Jesus for ten years, and died in Vietnam with a bullet hole through his playboy bunny, he was in heaven.”

4 Simple Steps for Doing Bible Word Studies

George Guthrie follows up a previous post with an instructive one on doing word studies.

Stargazer Fish

Stargazers have eyes on the top of their heads. They bury themselves in the bottom of the sea and just wait for something to blunder on by. Check out the video.

If It Makes You Happy

This article at Reformation21 really digs down to the bottom of the “if it makes you happy” way of thinking that’s so pervasive today.

This Day in 1649 367 years ago today, Edward Winslow helped organize the Society for Propagating the Gospel in New England for the purpose of bringing the gospel to American Indians. *

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

Thom Rainer is thinking about being a senior (which is coming right up) and considering the kind of senior he does not want to be. “I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.”

Flashback: So You Want To Sin, Do You?

So you want to sin, do you? I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve been there today. And yesterday. And the day before. Can I beg just four or five minutes of your time? Then you can go and sin all you want. But first I want you to read just a few words and take a moment to consider them.

Luther

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. —Martin Luther