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September 13, 2010

Take Words With YouA few months ago my friend Tim Kerr, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Toronto gave me permission to share Take Words With You, a prayer manual he has written. It is a small book that contains over 1600 scripture promises and prayers meant to help God’s people pray more effectively. The promises are arranged around the cross—its purposes and rewards.

Tim recently updated the book to a new edition. It includes a useful defense of why God loves it when we pray his promises back to him and it also includes a guide on how to best use the manual in prayer.

Take Words With You is ideal for printing and using during times of private or corporate prayer. In fact, you’ll see that you can easily print it in 8.5” x 6.5” format and spiral bind it if you so desire. Here is how Tim introduces this little book:

Many years ago I discovered a precious truth regarding prayer: God loves to hear his own words prayed back to him! When a small child crawls up on the lap of their father and says, “Daddy when are you going to take us to the zoo like you promised?” the father smiles and assures his child he has not forgotten and is very much looking forward to doing what he promised (when the time is right). In the same way, our heavenly Father delights to hear us remind him of his promises to us. The Bible is in fact a great big prayer manual that should fill and guide our prayers each and every day.
It is hoped that the many promises of God written here will be prayed back to God in prayer as we seek to enter into God’s purposes accomplished for us through Christ’s cross. Sometimes we remember the gist of a promise but cannot remember what was said or where it is found in Scripture. This manual has been written to make that process easier by organizing the promises of God by categories and themes.

Click below if you’d like to download it for your own use. Feel free to pass it around or print it as you see fit.

September 13, 2010

The best defense is a good offense. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. Though initially meant for a military context, it has since been applied to all kinds of situations far beyond warfare. It has also been turned around so occasionally you will hear people say, “the best offense is a good defense.” Today we most often hear in the phrase in the context of sports, and now that football season is upon us—the sport of a thousand cliches—I suspect we will be hearing it a lot.

When it comes to sports, it is often the case that a strong offense is the best defense. After all, a team with strong offensive production denies the other team the ability to control the ball and to tally points. The phrase works well in sports like soccer or hockey where, especially in the game’s closing minutes, a team will attempt to control the ball (or puck) for long periods, knowing that this will keep the other team from scoring. But maybe it works best in football. Football is a sport I used to watch a lot and there were many occasions where I saw games where the first possession would last an entire quarter, or very close to it. As the team marched slowly up the field, with play after play, they maintained constant possession of the ball. The defensive team remained on defense and had no opportunity to put any points on the board. The best teams have this down to an art and have mastered the ability to take large chunks of time off the clock while accomplishing little more than keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands. In this case offense serves as defense. The offensive team plays defensively, not attempting to score points as much as they try to keep the other team from getting control of the ball.

The more I live this Christian life, the more I see that there is a spiritual level of truth in that old and worn phrase. The best defense really is a good offense. The best way to protect my heart and life is to be constantly on the offensive. It is in those times that I ease off, those times where I grow complacent and disinterested, that I am most prone to sin, most prone to wandering. It is in those times that I begin to lose battles. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 seem applicable: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” When I think I can stand on my own power I am priming myself for a great fall.

September 13, 2010

My children are going to French Immersion school, which means that they spend half a day learning in English and half a day learning in French. Generally we are really glad to have them learning a second language. Where I don’t like it so much is where they are now starting to realize that the French folk songs I sing them don’t actually make any sense. They are unmasking my ignorance (and, already, their accents are way better than mine ever was).

Five Tips for Raising Godly Children - “Many folks who have read J.C. Ryle over the years have thoroughly enjoyed his writings, especially his well known works like Holiness, Knots Untied and his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels commentary set. However, many folks may forget that John Charles Ryle was not only a prolific writer and vigorous preacher in England during the 1800′s, he was also a parent…to five children. [and widowed three times!]”

At the Bottom of Everything - Another good blog entry from 6YearMed (who must be getting near to the end of her 6 years). “Sometimes we rock babies to sleep.  Sometimes we rock to quiet them.  And sometimes we rock a baby to soothe ourselves.”

My Mom’s on Facebook? - Here’s the infographic du jour, this one showing how Facebook’s demographic is changing. One thing that surprised me: The average Facebook user is 38 years old and 61% of Facebook users are 35 or older.

The Social News Room - Another tech article, this one showing how the news has changed in a world of social media.

Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex - There are a couple of not-so-nice pictures in this article, so click the link with that warning in mind. This author shows how Lady Gaga, the ridiculously popular pop singer, seems to herald the death of the sexual revolution. “Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualised and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…”

A Campaign Speech - This is just too, too, I don’t even know what. It’s the latest and greatest viral video and is something you just need to experience.

When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in water, when an owl is happy in the blaze of the noonday sun, when a fish is happy on dry land then, and not till then, will I admit that the unsanctified man could be happy in heaven. —J.C. Ryle

September 12, 2010

Last week a friend introduced me to this hymn by John Newton. At least I think it is a hymn. Personally I think it works better as poetry, but I suppose there is a fine line between the two. Read it and I think you’ll see that Newton knew what it was to sin, and he knew who it was that was tempting him to sin. And he knew that the pleasure offered by sin was only a fleeting kind of pleasure. “Often thus, through sin’s deceit, / Grief, and shame, and loss I meet, / Like a fish, my soul mistook, / Saw the bait, but not the hook.”

Sin, when viewed by scripture light,
Is a horrid, hateful sight;
But when seen in Satan’s glass,
Then it wears a pleasing face.

When the gospel trumpet sounds,
When I think how grace abounds,
When I feel sweet peace within,
Then I’d rather die than sin.

When the cross I view by faith,
Sin is madness, poison, death;
Tempt me not, ’tis all in vain,
Sure I ne’er can yield again.

Satan, for awhile debarred,
When he finds me off my guard,
Puts his glass before my eyes,
Quickly other thoughts arise.

What before excited fears,
Rather pleasing now appears;
If a sin, it seems so small,
Or, perhaps, no sin at all.

Often thus, through sin’s deceit,
Grief, and shame, and loss I meet,
Like a fish, my soul mistook,
Saw the bait, but not the hook.

O my Lord, what shall I say?
How can I presume to pray?
Not a word have I to plead,
Sins, like mine, are black indeed!

Made, by past experience, wise,
Let me learn thy word to prize;
Taught by what I’ve felt before,
Let me Satan’s glass abhor.

September 11, 2010

A few days ago I read through R.C. Sproul’s little book When Worlds Collide. This book was written in early 2002, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Sproul wrote it as a response to those events, as a means of grappling with the difficult questions related to God’s sovereignty and human suffering. As I read the book I was struck by how relevant it remains today, especially since 9/11 is still so real and since so many people still have not really dealt with it in their hearts and minds (and perhaps never will).

It is interesting to trace Sproul’s teaching on the subject. Here I’ll provide just a few quotes that ought to give you a sense of his logic.

The events of 9/11 were a mortal blow to relativism, because the response of Americans and the response of people the world over, after looking at this heinous attack on human life, was the very “unrelativistic” declaration that “This is evil.” … One cannot have such a shocking encounter with pure evil and walk away, saying, “Well, it’s a relative thing.”

*****

If we look carefully at the biblical understanding of God and construct our worldview on this basis, we see that God in His providence is a sovereign God, who not only governs nature and the laws of nature but who raises nations up and brings nations low. Within His providence come both blessing and calamity.

*****

If God did not ordain all things, He would not be sovereign over all things. And if He is not sovereign over all things, then He is not God at all.

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God’s ordination of all things does not annihilate human decisions or the forces of nature. Yet at the same time the sovereignty of God stands over every human event.

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I do not know why God ordained 9/11, but I know that He did ordain it because if He did not ordain it, it would not have happened. Since it happened, I know for certain that God ordained it in some sense. That is one of the most difficult concepts even for devout Christians to deal with. Yet the concept is found on almost every page of sacred Scripture. It is at the very heart of the Christian faith.

*****

The word “tragedy” presupposes some kind of order or purpose in the world. If the world has purpose and order, then all that occurs in it is meaningful in some respect. The idea of a “senseless tragedy” represents a worldview that is completely incompatible with Christian thought. It assumes that something happens without purpose or without meaning.

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Christians do not allow for meaningless events to take place, because at the heart of the Christian worldview is the idea that everything in history has a purpose in the mind of Almighty God. God is a purposive God; He is not chaotic.

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In the final analysis, that which defines the Christian worldview is the glory of the cross. The cross remains the symbol for all that is loved and embraced in the Christian worldview. It is also the symbol for all that the pagan worldview despises. The cross is the symbol that causes worlds to collide. It provokes a war that will not end until the consummation of the Kingdom of God.

September 10, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

I’ve got a new sponsor to introduce you to this morning—Kress Biblical Resources. Kress publishes books by quite a few different authors, many of whom are in one way or another connected to John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary. “Kress Biblical Resources is setting a new standard in timely, clear, and doctrinally sound books and resources for pastors and Bible students. Our authors are approved workmen, not celebrities. Our books are designed to stand the test of exegesis, not chase after every new wind of doctrine.”

They are offering a total of ten prizes and each of the winners will be able to decide which prize package they would prefer. These packages come in two flavors:

Pastor & Teacher

The first prize package includes three books that are geared toward pastors and teachers. This includes:

  • The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors is a unique blend of exegesis and exposition. Its 624 pages include study of the Greek, and English text, application tools, expositional outlines, and annotated bibliography on the pastoral epistles.
  • In The Discipline of Mercy, pastors and counselors Eric Kress and Paul Tautges take us deep into the book of Lamentations where we are exhorted to place our hope fully in the faithful mercy and loyal love of a gracious God—no matter the extent of our suffering
  • God in Everyday Life combines a few of the varied elements and styles of different types of study aids into one resource, in order to facilitate the biblical exposition and application of the book of Ruth. This is an expositional commentary, along with tools to help apply the biblical text.

Kress

General Readers

The second prize package is geared toward general readers and includes three books targeted at the rest of us (and written by Greg Harris). This includes:

  • The Cup and the Glory takes the reader on a profound study through the Scriptures, uncovering biblical truths on how to respond to, and embrace suffering to the glory of God.
  • The Darkness and the Glory examines the cross from Christs perspective and provides a compelling behind-the-scenes look at the profound spiritual and theological realities of Calvaryrealities that transcend the physical, as the wrath of man was surpassed by both the wrath of Satan and ultimately the wrath of God.
  • In The Stone and the Glory, Greg Harris takes his readers on a profound journey through the Scriptures as they explore the glorious realities of the stone prophecies

Here is a video of John MacArthur discussing these books and their author:

Again, there will be a total of ten winners. Each winner will be given the option of choosing the General Reader package or the Pastor & Teacher package.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

September 10, 2010

Football season began yesterday. This is really the only time of the year that I miss having cable television. I know that I’m far better off not having it, but still, there’s something about football in the fall that calls to me. The only time I catch a game these days is when I happen to be traveling and can watch for an hour at the airport. And that’s just kind of sad.

What You Want in an Athlete - This is an interesting article. It discusses Tim Tebow who, though the third-string quarterback for the Broncos, is their most admired player. “There has really never been a player like this in the NFL. One whose every move appears to be so pure and without pretense that he is beloved by millions, many of whom wouldn’t call themselves sports fans. Yes, much of it is based on his Christian faith and his proud admission that as a star athlete he is still a virgin and also about the television commercial he filmed with his mother explaining why she did not abort him when it appeared that complications were life-threatening.”

Teen Texting Reaches Critical Mass - “It won’t come as a surprise to parents of teenagers, but a recent survey conducted by the free mobile text messaging app textPlus shows that teens not only are habitually text messaging with parents and friends in class, but most of them don’t even feel guilty about it.”

Have We Shared Too Much? - This infographic looks at the kind of information we give to many of the big companies like Google and Facebook.

Don’t Give Up on the Church - Randy Alcorn speaks to Christians who can’t stand the church.

If God be God, then no insoluble problem exists. And if God be my God, then no problem of mine is without its appropriate solution. —Maurice Roberts

September 09, 2010

C.S. Lewis crafted many masterpieces, books that have stood the test of time. Mere Christianity and the Narnia series are probably the best-known, but The Screwtape Letters follows close behind. It is a unique book (at least it was unique in its time) in that it was built around a series of letters from one demon to another, from a senior demon to the nephew he was mentoring. In this format Lewis shared profound truths about the spiritual world.

I love this introduction by Patricia Klein.

Who among us has never wondered if there might not really be a tempter sitting on our shoulders or dogging our steps? C.S. Lewis dispels all doubts. In The Screwtape Letters, one of his bestselling works, we are made privy to the instructional correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his wannabe diabolical nephew Wormwood. As mentor, Screwtape coaches Wormwood in the finer points, tempting his “patient” away from God.

Each letter is a masterpiece of reverse theology, giving the reader an inside look at the thinking and means of temptation. Tempters, according to Lewis, have two motives: the first is fear of punishment, the second a hunger to consume or dominate other beings. On the other hand, the goal of the Creator is to woo us unto himself or to transform us through his love from “tools into servants and servants into sons.” It is the dichotomy between being consumed and subsumed completely into another’s identity or being liberated to be utterly ourselves that Lewis explores with his razor-sharp insight and wit.

The most brilliant feature of The Screwtape Letters may be likening hell to a bureaucracy in which “everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.” We all understand bureaucracies, be it the Department of Motor Vehicles, the IRS, or one of our own making. So we each understand the temptations that slowly lure us into hell. If you’ve never read Lewis, The Screwtape Letters is a great place to start. And if you know Lewis, but haven’t read this, you’ve missed one of his core writings.

If you’ve never experienced Screwtape, well, you really should. Here are a few options available to you: