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October 13, 2015

Never have I had a quicker opportunity to apply the book I’ve been reading. I read most of Ronnie Martin’s Stop Your Complaining on the morning of a holiday Monday, then went to a polling station to cast my vote for next week’s election. (Yes, the advance polls are open on the holiday; I will be away on Election Day and decided to make sure I cast my ballot.) I walked into the community center and saw a lineup—a very big lineup that was going nowhere fast. I had the choice: Would I be grateful for a free country and peaceful, democratic elections? Or would I join the crowd in grumbling about the incompetence of Elections Canada (before heading home to finish the book, of course)? Would I turn this into an opportunity for grumbling or gratitude?

Gratitude does not come easily to me. It should. I live an easy, convenient, first-world life. I have been given innumerable blessings, not the least of which is the gift of salvation. But still, I like to complain. I like to apply my powers of perception and discernment to the people and situations around me and to discuss their inevitable shortcomings. It’s not complaining, right? It’s just honesty. It’s just observation. Somehow I always feel like I am justified in it. It’s like the book says: “Complaining is more than just a cute adjective to describe us on our bad days. In all of its various forms and functions it’s become a lifestyle, a way of existence and a daily routine that is as natural to us as breathing, walking and eating. It’s built into the foundation of our communication, bridging cultures together as one of the few ways we know how to relate to one another.”

That’s exactly why I pulled this book out of the pile that showed up this month. I know I have a bit of a problem here. I’ve been aware of it for some time and have been working on it. But I was eager for a bit more guidance. And I’m glad to say that Martin’s book delivered admirably.

I found two significant ways that this book shifted and sharpened my understanding of complaining. First, Martin emphasizes the sheer evil of complaining—at least, the kind of grumbling, self-centered complaining that I am prone to. He says rightly that “complaining is a slow, subtle poison that builds in our systems and usually goes undetected. It may be one of the least discussed sins in churches today.” It’s sheer prevalence may make it an acceptable sin, but that does not diminish its ugliness or seriousness. At heart, complaining is casting blame on God, suggesting that he has not provided what I am sure I need. That is a serious charge, a serious offence.

Second, Martin emphasizes that complaining is not so much something I do as something I am. Complaining goes far deeper than words. Words, after all, are simply an overflow of the heart. In that way, complaining exposes an inward dissatisfaction and an inner conviction that I deserve better than what God has provided in this moment (or in that moment when I walked into the voting station.)

But, of course, Martin does not simply describe and define the problem. He also offers a solution—the Bible’s own solution. He points to repentance and gratitude, both flowing from and related to the gospel, as the keys that can overcome this ugly problem.

If you read a book like this one and come away with two simple things—a deeper disgust of complaining and a heightened desire for gratitude—your time has been well-spent. And I think that is what you will find if you read it. Stop Your Complaining is short but not trite, light but still significant. It’s exactly the book I needed today.

October 13, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include Discovering the God Who Is by R.C. Sproul ($2.99); The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer ($1.99); A Portrait of Paul by Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker ($3.99); Planting, Watering, Growing by Daniel Hyde ($2.99); What Is a Reformed Church? by Malcolm Watts ($1.99); Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective by Fred Sanders ($2.99); The 11 Secrets of Getting Published by Mary DeMuth ($2.99).

Five Strategies for Daily Bible Reading

It always surprises me that something so simple can be so difficult. Yet, in my experience, it really is. Here are some strategies to help with your daily Bible reading.

Accessing Maturity

Collin Marshall explains an important link: the link between spiritual maturity and spiritual discernment.

Idolatry: A Fatal Attraction

We all struggle with idolatry in one form or another. In this article, Brad Andrews helps you take the first step in diagnosing your idolatry.

Crisis for Pope Francis

The Spectator: “A group of cardinals – including some of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church – have written to Pope Francis telling him that his Synod on the Family, now meeting in Rome, has gone badly off the rails and could cause the church to collapse.”

This Day in 1605. Theodore Beza died. Beza was a French-born theologian, who had been widely recognized as John Calvin’s successor. *

Using Technology Wisely

Facts and Trends asked me to write an article about using technology wisely. I wrote about the importance of technology in fulfilling God’s calling on our lives.

South Korea’s Rock Star Teachers

Why do South Korea’s teachers get treated like rock stars? WORLD looks at a new documentary and explains.

Evernote, the First Dead Unicorn

I’m a big fan of Evernote, so hope this article proves false. But it’s a good read nonetheless.


Sin forsaken is one of the best evidences of sin forgiven. —J.C. Ryle

Positive Purity
October 12, 2015

We live in a sexualized culture—a very, very sexualized culture. You already know that, of course. You can barely walk out your door or turn on a screen without seeing clear evidence of the fact. As Christians we are always in danger of being swept along with the current of the culture around us. For that reason I, like every other Christian, pursue sexual purity in my own heart and life. God calls us to nothing less. Thankfully, the Bible was written by people who also lived in sexualized cultures, and the wisdom they offer transcends the ages. (See, for example, Proverbs 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 4:16-18, and so on).

Sexual purity has two components to it: the turning away and the turning toward, the stopping of one kind of behavior and the beginning of another. I have seen in my own life that I am never far from making the focus of sexual purity all of those negative commands: Don’t do this, don’t behave that way, don’t carry on that habit. And I think we sometimes send the message that if you simply stop all of those evil behaviors you will be sexually pure. But sexual purity is also a positive command. In fact, I think we can say that it is foremost a positive command. Sexual purity isn’t just avoiding what is evil; it’s pursuing and enjoying what is good.

Sexual purity is not ultimately turning away from sin, but delighting in God’s gifts. The final purpose is not to stop pursuing the bad stuff, but to pursue and enjoy the good. Sexual purity is abstaining from immorality, forsaking the dirty novels, overcoming pornography, making that covenant with your eyes. These are all good and necessary. But sexual purity is so much more than that. It’s so much better than that. It’s so much more positive than that.

Sexual purity is pursuing your wife’s heart, mind, and body. Sexual purity is freely and joyfully making love to your husband. Sexual purity is relishing the memory of the last time and enjoying the anticipation of the next time. Sexual purity is teasing him about what’s to come. Sexual purity is allowing your eyes to linger and to feast upon her.

Husband, you aren’t sexually pure when you stop looking at porn, but when you love making love to your wife—when you treat her body with holiness and honor. Wife, you aren’t sexually pure when you forsake sexual temptation or sexual apathy, but when you participate in and enjoy sexual fulfillment with your husband.

Do you see it? Sexual purity is not ultimately about what to avoid, but what to pursue and what to enjoy. It’s about putting those old and ugly behaviors to death in order to free yourself to pursue the better ones. God wants to free you from sin so you can enjoy his gifts. God’s purity is a positive purity.

(A note for those who are single: God’s purity is a positive purity even for you who cannot enjoy the sexual relationship at this time. The commands to abstain from sexual immorality free you to the joy of obedience and to the blessings of obedience—the freedom experienced by Jesus who led a perfect and perfectly whole life without sex. I will write more about this on another occasion.)

October 12, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals are headlined by 3 J.I. Packer titles: Taking God Seriously, Growing in Christ, and Keeping the Ten Commandments ($2.99 each). Continuing the theme, Sam Storms’ new book Packer on the Christian Life is $5.99. Also consider: Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur ($3.99); What the Bible Means to Me by Catherine MacKenzie ($1.99); The Fruitful Wife by Hayley DiMarco ($2.99).

More than the Five Points

David Murray provides a couple of interesting facts about Calvinism, including this: “The five points of Calvinism did not originate with John Calvin, and do not provide a comprehensive summarize of his teaching.”

The Inner Workings of Becoming One Flesh

Melissa has a gift for describing the Christian life as it is. “Marriage is an on-going exercise in making fools of ourselves for love’s sake.” Amen to that!

Why Gospel for Asia Got Kicked Out of ECFA

I mentioned last week that Gospel for Asia was removed from the financial accountability organization ECFA. This article explains why it happened and how GFA is responding.

Historic Flooding in South Carolina

This photo gallery shows the devastation in parts of South Carolina.

Sometimes Africa Scares Me

Let articles like this one remind you to pray for those serving the Lord overseas. “Will this election mirror other African countries? Will there be rioting and violence? Just a few years ago, 1000 people were killed in election violence in Kenya, our neighbor to the north.”

Today. Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians. In 1957 Parliament declared the second Monday of October to be “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Be sure to do that!

Building Church Community the Right Way

WORLD magazine has an extended excerpt from The Compelling Community, an excellent book from Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop. This excerpt gets right to the heart of the book. (For further information, here is my review: The Compelling Community.)

Hoo Ba Ba Kanda

Take a bit of autotune and some old Robert Tilton clips and you’ll be singing Hoo Ba Ba Kanda all day long.


Begin early to teach, for children begin early to sin. —C.H. Spurgeon

October 11, 2015

One of the most important books I have ever read is a book about joy and wonder. Steve DeWitt’s Eyes Wide Open impacted me in many ways, but perhaps foremost by opening my eyes to the beauty behind the beauty. Here is a short quote in which he describes our problem with beauty.

Creation is beautiful precisely because its Creator is beautiful. God defines beauty by His very essence. He is the source and standard of all beauty. But the concept of God’s beauty is hard for us to imagine. For one thing, God is spirit, a reality that in itself poses problems; we are limited in our ability to understand God’s beauty in that our experience of beauty is essentially sensory. We cannot see God or smell God or touch God. He is “the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Yet this invisible God has chosen to express the fullness of His beauty in physical ways. The display is not the beauty itself. We must not confuse God’s expression of His beauty with its essential character. That would be like mistaking a woman’s taste in fashion for her virtue. The created world in all its beauty is an expression of God’s beauty, but it is not the essence of His beauty. (Although if God’s visual display of His beauty in creation is so awe-inspiring, imagine how wonderful His essential beauty must be!) We are accustomed to thinking about beauty as visual; to think of God as beautiful requires a definition that goes beyond the senses to the quintessence—core—of essential beauty.

Our second problem with understanding the beauty of God is that beauty is generally viewed as a category of personal preference. When judging beauty, people often say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Our assessment of the beauty of an object or person is shaped by cultural influences and perceptions. …

Studies show that we are heavily influenced by our parents’ and our culture’s definitions of beauty. These factors make it difficult for us to consider the beauty of God, which doesn’t fit into cultural or conditioned categories of thinking. God’s beauty is divine, eternal, and infinite. He is beautiful. He always has been and eternally will be.

Our final difficulty is that God’s beauty defies our ability to comprehend. A helpful word in grappling with divine beauty is ineffable. This word is one of the few that apply because it means “beyond comprehension.” God transcends all aesthetic definition. Human language cannot produce a word that adequately describes something infinitely desirable. A popular phrase captures the ineffability of God’s beauty: It blows our minds. We cannot see God’s beauty (God is spirit); we cannot evaluate it (God transcends humanity’s ability for critique); and we cannot comprehend it (God is infinite, and we are not).

So why even attempt to wrap our minds around the beauty of God? … We seek expressions of beauty because what we can see and comprehend draws us to wonders too awesome not to enjoy. Their ineffability is entwined with their desirability. What I cannot see is mysteriously interesting to me and compels me to look all the more. The same is true of God’s beauty and attributes.

October 10, 2015

Thanks to all who read and replied to yesterday’s article The Major Life Decision That Put My Theology to the Test. The response was very encouraging and, in its own way, very confirming. Thank you.

Can the Devil Read My Mind?

R.C. Sproul answers this question.

Lean In To Boredom

“Boredom is not tragic. Properly understood, boredom helps us understand time, and ourselves. Unlike fun or work, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content.”

Reignite Your Prayer Life

This article from Don Whitney is essentially a summary of his book Praying the Bible.

Wise to What’s on the Internet

I was recently a guest on TechTonic podcast. We talked about ad blocking and protecting yourself and your family from pornography.

Your Husband Is Looking at Pornography

Here is some counsel on how to respond if you learn that your husband is looking at pornography or has been involved in other sexual sin. “The question is, now what do you do? How do you deal with this? I want to help you, Christian wife and woman, to see this sin through the eyes of the Lord and the Gospel.”

This Day in 2003. 12 years ago today, Desiring God hosted their first National Conference.

Comic Books as Modern Mythology

This is an interesting argument: “The comics of today are American versions of Greek mythology complete with origin, philosophy, psychology, and religion.”

Why the Reformation Study Bible?

Thanks to Ligonier Ministries for sponsoring the blog this week with an article titled Why the Reformation Study Bible?.


By faith we expect rich harvest fields and breaking nets, for the gospel is specifically designed to bear fruit. —Jack Miller

October 09, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Evangelical Press (aka EP Books) and features some of their new and noteworthy books. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive 7 different books. The prizes include:

  • A Well-Ordered Church by William Boekestein and Daniel Hyde. "William Boekestein and Danny Hyde love the church because they love the church’s Head, Jesus Christ. They want you and me to love the church also. How? By learning more about the order, offices, and callings that Jesus has given the church in the Bible. This is a well-written, accessible, and practical introduction to the life and work of the church."
  • Reformed Worship by Terry Johnson. "When the church assembles on the Lord’s Day, what is it supposed to do? Does Scripture instruct us? Does God provide directions? Or is it up to us? Is it left to ministers and “worship leaders” and worship committees to make things up as we go, settling on whatever they think might be edifying, or exciting, or neat? Thankfully, God has not left us to our own devices in this most vital of realms."
  • Martyrs of Malayta by James Wright. "On April 18, 2007, three men gave their lives for Jesus Christ. Two Turkish Christians and one German . . . began their day simply wanting to spend time with local men they thought genuinely wanted to study the Bible. Instead, five hostile young men met their kindness and hospitality with betrayal and treachery."

It also includes 4 of their Bitesize Biographies:

  • Ulrich Zwingli (William Boekestein)
  • Thomas Chalmers (Sandy Finlayson)
  • Samuel Rutherford (Dick Hannula)
  • J. Gresham Machen (Sean Michael Lucas)

Free Stuff Fridays

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.