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March 31, 2015

Clean House

You have probably heard the saying before: A clean house is a sign of a wasted life. Whatever else the phrase means, it expresses some of the frustration and the sense of futility that attends life in this world. I thought of that saying when I spotted this proverb: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4). A little bit of research shows that commentators are divided on exactly what it means, but I think one of the explanations rises to the top.

According to this explanation, the proverb is about the messiness of a life well-lived. Tremper Longman says the moral is that “a productive life is a messy life.”

I love productivity. At least, I love productivity when it is properly defined—as effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. By this definition, each one of us, no matter our vocation, ought to pursue productivity with all the vigor we can muster. And if you do that, it is inevitable that along the way you will accumulate some mess. You cannot focus your time, attention, gifts, energy, and enthusiasm toward noble goals while still keeping every corner of life perfectly tidy.

The pastor’s desk will at times be crammed with books and papers. The baker’s counter will sometimes overflow with pots and pans and flour and sugar. The mechanics’s hands will be stained with grease and his shop will need a daily once-over with the power washer. And the home—the home will at times be messy and cluttered and downright embarrassing.

Longman says, “One desires a neat and tidy life, just as the ideal stall would be clean. However, a clean stall by the nature of things would mean an empty stall since oxen do not have to be in a stall long before it is messy. However, without oxen there is no productivity.”

We could as easily say that one desires a neat and tidy house, just as the ideal stall would be clean. However, a clean house by the nature of things might just mean an empty house since children and husbands and houseguests and those neighborhood kids do not have to be in the house long before it is agonizingly messy. However, without all of those people there is no productivity—no true, biblical productivity—, no children to care for, no friends to counsel, no hospitality to extend.

Like so much else in this life, you cannot have it all. You cannot have perfect order and perfect productivity. You cannot have a home that is warm and full and inviting, you cannot have every child fed and cared for, while also having every dish done and every sock laundered. You just can’t. Of course this isn’t to excuse slovenliness or laziness. But you need to understand what Derek Kidner says, that “Orderliness can reach the point of sterility. This proverb is [a plea for] the readiness to accept upheaval, and a mess to clear up, as the price of growth.” Growth, or productivity, as the case may be. Is a clean house proof of a wasted life? Not at all. But a tidy house isn’t necessarily evidence of a well-lived life.

If you do the things God tells you to do, messes will inevitably follow. But take heart: According to the wisest man who ever lived, these messes are not proof of a wasted life, but of a productive one.

March 31, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Discovering the God Who Is by R.C. Sproul ($3.99); 12 Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever ($3.99); How People Change by Paul Tripp & Timothy Lane ($2.99); CrossTalk by Michael Emlet ($2.51).

Indiana: A Religious Liberty Bellweather - Rod: Dreher seems to get it right when he says, “This total political and media freakout over the Indiana law is the real story.”

What Dawkins, Hawking, and Harris Know About God - It’s the truth: “As we evangelize, we are not evangelizing blank slates. We are not starting with total ignorance. We are going to people who already know much about God.”

Write “Sending” Into Your Church’s DNA - Though eventually J.D. Greear mentions a forthcoming conference, you won’t want to miss the heart of the article: That every church ought to be a sending church.

Nuclear Energy Explained - This excellent little video explains how nuclear energy works.

Civil War Photos Online - The Library of Congress has acquired thousands of Civil War photographs and has put them online.

Fake Testimonials - Slate writes about Lifeway’s recent decision to stop selling heaven tourism books. “Theologically speaking it’s a sensible and belated move, one that has likely taken so long because of the immense amount of money these books bring in.”

Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon - Erik Raymond offers some tips.

If you are weak enough to confess your sins, God is strong enough to save you from them. —Thabiti Anyabwile

Anyabwile

March 30, 2015

GrovelI am not easily offended. People will sometimes apologize to me for something they have said or something they have done, concerned that I was offended at their behavior. But I rarely am. It usually doesn’t even occur to me to be offended. But then there is that one situation with that one friend.

A long time ago a friend really did offend me. He hurt me badly, actually. In the aftermath he did the right thing. I spoke to him and expressed how his behavior had hurt me, and he apologized. And that should have been enough, right?

But this is the one offense in my life I found it difficult to move past. And I mean that—for many years this offense existed in its own category in my life. It was the one wound that was so slow to heal. And I sometimes wondered why. Why was this one so hard to let go? Why did I still bear the weight of it, even much later on?

As I thought about it and as I prayed about it, I came to see that somewhere along the way I had decided that my friend was not sorry enough. My memories of the moment told me that he was not contrite enough. His assessment of his actions never quite seemed to measure up to my own. At least, that was my perception of the matter. What grieved me merely bothered him. That was how I perceived it and that is how it sat heavy on my heart.

It took me a long time to see that I was expecting too much. I was expecting the wrong thing. My friend expressed remorse and asked forgiveness, just like he should have. There were no amends he could make and no further actions he could take to make things right—that was not the nature of this offense. So he moved on. We remained friends.

But sometimes that old hurt would creep up. Sometimes I would find myself hurt all over again by that old offense. And I came to see that I wanted to measure his response by his sorrow. I wanted to see him grovel a little, as if this would prove his remorse. I wanted to see him shed a few tears for his offense against me. I wanted him to look and act sorry enough to satisfy my wounded ego. I had judged his apology sincere but insufficient, well-intentioned but trite.

Until one day I understood that he could never be sorry enough. He could never apologize deeply enough. He could never grovel contritely enough. He had done it all just right: He had apologized and asked my forgiveness and gotten on with life and relationship. The fault was with me, with unfair standards, and with unjust judgment.

I had to see that no one can ever be sorry enough. No one can ever be contrite enough. Not him, and not me. The same freedom I enjoy from the Lord—the freedom to ask forgiveness and then immediately enjoy the promise of that forgiveness—that is the very same freedom I was denying him. God doesn’t make me grovel. God doesn’t make me come back again and again to beg forgiveness for that very same sin. God sees the heart, he sees my remorse over my sin, and he forgives to such a degree that I can have absolute confidence in his forgiveness. If God were to grant me forgiveness only when my sincerity was sufficient, only when I properly understood the depth of the offense, and only when I expressed a fitting degree of remorse, I fear that few of my sins would be forgiven.

As is so often the case in life, I was holding someone else to standard I could not hold myself. I can never be sorry enough. He can never be sorry enough. But I can imitate God in granting free and full forgiveness and in letting the matter rest.

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 30, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges ($2.99); The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson ($1.99); Sensing Jesus by Zach Eswine ($3.99); Expositional Preaching by David Helm ($3.99); Am I Called? by Dave Harvey ($2.99); The Heart of the Matter by New Growth Press ($2.99); Multiply by Francis Chan ($2.99); Forgotten God by Francis Chan ($4.99); Old Story New by Marty Machowski ($3.99); Long Story Short by Marty Machowski ($4.99).

Can Canada Teach the Rest of Us to Be Nicer? - “Canada is to niceness as Saudi Arabia is to oil. It’s awash in the stuff, and it’s about time, I say, the rest of the world imported some.” Amen!

Fake Maple Syrup - First an article about Canadian niceness and then one about Americans’ apparent love for fake maple syrup.

The Spiritual Stages - Christians progress through various spiritual stages.

The Effect of Singing - “Worship is first and foremost addressing God and giving glory to God.”

Two Kinds of Bad Singers - In a similar vein, this article tells you about two different kinds of bad singers.

Discrimination in Indiana? - Wondering what the furor in Indiana is all about? Denny Burk explains.

Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. —C.S. Lewis

Lewis

March 29, 2015

William Struthers’ book Wired for Intimacy made quite an impact when it was released in 2009. Struthers went deep into the human brain to show that God has hard-wired us for intimacy and relationships, and to show that pornography has disrupted the brain’s circuitry in dark and dangerous ways. He spoke about other matters as well, and one that still remains important to me is his discussion of the unique importance of the masculine voice. He distinguishes between the masculine and the feminine voice and insists that both play crucial and unique functions in relationships.

The voice of the masculine speaks to affirm. All children are carried and primarily nourished by the mother. Daughters and sons first know their mother as she carries them, delivers them into the world and then is their primary source of nourishment. In many ways the child moves from becoming an extension of the mother to their own person. All children, both boys and girls, develop their own sense of identity as they separate from their mother. For boys, this process is fairly straightforward. What makes them different from their mothers is fairly easy to see: their bodies.

Both young boys and young girls need to hear from both the feminine and the masculine voice. These voices can be spoken by both mothers and fathers. A father is not incapable of nurturing because he is a man, neither is a mother incapable of affirming because she is a woman. But the masculine voice alone speaking both affirmation and nurture is not enough. The feminine voice speaking both nurture and affirmation is not enough.

Does this mean that a child who grows up in a house where one of their parents is not present is doomed to a life of truncated emotional, psychological and spiritual development? Not if there is a male presence other than the father that is able to come in and act as a surrogate for those children. Boys and girls both need a masculine voice in their life that encourages, affirms, challenges, enables and stretches them. In an ideal set of circumstances both mother and father are present in the raising of a child. Both the masculine and the feminine speak to nurture, protect and grow, albeit in different ways.

There is something special about the affirming voice of the masculine father. This voice of affirmation is not just needed for young men, but also for young women. While it may be true that “only a father can tell a boy when he is a man” (and worthy to stand among his peers), it is also true that the father’s affirmation of a daughter’s worth speaks into her being in a way that others do not. … The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a man lets him know that he is worthy to stand in the company of his peers; he is loved because of who he is. The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.

When a boy realizes that he is other than his mother (his body is different and she acknowledges that he is different), who is it that tells him who he is, what he is to do, what he will become? His father. The father, the masculine voice, acts to inform, equip, instruct and model. In the absence of this voice, which at its best is loving, trustworthy and affirming, a boy is forced to look for whatever is available to discover who he is. He may look to his mother for instruction, and she rightly has much to say on the matter, her guidance on how a man should relate comes from a female perspective. He may look to another male figure in his life; a grandfather, uncle, elder brother or the media.

The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak to what he knows to be true. The Promise Keepers movement of the 1990s hit this nail on the head. When a man makes a promise, he is honor bound to keep it because his word is who he is. The degree to which a man keeps his word is the measure of his integrity and honor. When the masculine voice affirms, it says, “It is good.” It doesn’t say, “It is okay now, but it might not be later.” The affirming nature of God is evidenced in the first chapter of Genesis after the many acts of creation. God “saw that it was good.”

March 28, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals: Jesus Unmasked by Todd Friel ($4.49); Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason ($2.99); Understanding World Religions by George Braswell ($0.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

How Can Hummingbirds Hover So Well? That’s a questions scientists have wrestled with for a long time.

Gene Veith writes about Who the Unchurched Really Are. “Can it be that American Christianity, with roots in this culture, has become so prosperous and middle class that it would rather not deal with people from this social class?”

Richard Phillips answers this question: Why Are There So Many Singles? “Why does it seem that God withholds marriage for so many when he clearly upholds it, encourages it, desires it, etc.?  Why are there so many singles who want marriage but don’t seem to find it?”

It really is that simple: We Complain Because We Forget.

I appreciate these 10 Pointers for Untrained Preachers.

Thanks to Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Short-Term Missions: Redefining Success.

The true test of our worldview is what we find entertaining. —Albert Mohler

Mohler

March 27, 2015

It’s time for another Free Stuff Fridays. This week’s giveaway is sponsored by Crossway, and they are offering a family pack, of sorts. There will be 5 winners and each of them will receive the following 3 books:

  • FurmanThe Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love by Gloria Furman. “In this encouraging and often humorous book, Gloria Furman offers pastors’ wives a breath of fresh air, reminding readers that Christ stands ready to help regardless of the circumstance—whether it’s late-night counseling sessions, unrealistic expectations about how they spend their time, or complaints about their husbands’ preaching. Filled with life-giving truth from God’s Word, this book will help pastors’ wives joyfully treasure their Savior, love their husbands, and serve their churches.”
  • Dangerous CallingDangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp. After traveling the globe and speaking to thousands of churches worldwide, Paul David Tripp has discovered a serious problem within pastoral culture. Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the well-being and effectiveness of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.”
  • A Loving LifeA Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul Miller. “How do you love with no love in return? How do you love when no one notices or cares? Best-selling author Paul Miller tackles these tough questions at the heart of our struggle to love head-on. Drawing from the book of Ruth, A Loving Life offers the help we need to embrace relationship, endure rejection, cultivate community, and reach out to even the most unlovable around us as we discover the power to live a loving life.”

Enter the Draw

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.