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July 06, 2015

The church has always had some of those people associated with it. There have always been people who maintain an offensive disposition when it comes to their faith. These are the people who seem to love nothing more than a good fight. They bait every conversation with a few key words, hoping that you will blunder into a discussion they know they can win. They play one Christian off another. They might elevate themselves into positions of Christian leadership for the purpose of enriching themselves at everyone else’s expense.

Even back in the days when the Apostle Paul was traveling from city to city to preach the gospel and plant churches—even then there were people who had an unhealthy craving for controversy (see 1 Timothy 6). At one point he wrote Timothy to warn specifically about these people. He identified them as professed Christians who especially love to quarrel about theological nuances and who have a knack for causing fights between others. It’s a too-common “gift” this gift of spiritual discouragement.

But as I read 1 Timothy and hear Paul warn about these controversialists, I hear him sound a second warning as well. This is a warning about a second kind of person who sins very differently but no less seriously. If we have controversy on the one side of the equation, we have complacency on the other. This, too, is a sin and it, too, is very dangerous.

The complacent Christian is the one who is afraid to speak up even when the situation is serious and in dire need of attention. He is the one who cowers before men and who would rather not speak at all than risk offending another person or risk taking sides. He would allow his Christian brothers and sisters to face spiritual risk instead of speaking up in defense of the truth. As we read the New Testament it seems possible, and perhaps even likely, that Timothy’s temptation was toward complacency. Paul felt it necessary to remind Timothy of the importance of taking sides in order to protect the purity of the gospel and to defend God’s people.

As I thought about controversy and complacency, I realized that in my own way and in different contexts I am prone to both of them. In real life and in face to face conversation, my tendency is toward complacency. Fear of man can compel me or shame me into silence. I have to push myself to speak boldly when there is controversy that needs to be addressed or, even worse, controversialists who need to be rebuked.

But I’m a hero behind my keyboard and have a natural tendency to be bold and brave and, if I’m not careful, downright obnoxious. I have to push myself to resist the temptation to speak up about issues that do not concern me and for which I have no business offering an opinion.

Controversy and complacency—both are alive in the church today. Sadly, both are alive in me as well.

July 06, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Note to Self and Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn ($3.99 each)—both are excellent and good additions to any library; Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada ($1.99); An Introduction to Wisdom and Poetry of the Old Testament by Donald Berry ($0.99); Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas ($1.99).

R.C. Sproul on the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling - R.C. Sproul has recorded some thoughts on the recent ruling on same-sex marriage.

Japan’s Suicide Rate - Here’s an interesting line from a sad article: “Japan has no history of Christianity…so here suicide is not a sin. In fact, some look at it as a way of taking responsibility.”

The Original Bohemian - Andrew Wilson writes about Jan Hus who was martyred 600 years ago today.

When to Baptize Believing Children - I found this quite a helpful distinction: “I think we Baptists should move away from the language of a ‘credible’ profession of faith when it comes to our children and teens, and instead speak in terms of a ‘mature’ profession of faith before baptizing.”

When the World Doesn’t Recognize Who You Are - Melissa draws an important and applicable lesson after spending some time at Disney World.

What If He’s Not Healthy? - This is one mom’s reflections on pregnancy and all that really matters.

Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve. —Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon

 

July 05, 2015

I am sure you have considered God’s command in 1 Corinthians 11:28: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” It sounds simple enough, but what is actually involved in this kind of self-examination? How should we prepare ourselves before celebrating the Lord’s supper? Thomas Haweis offers help in his classic work The Communicant’s Spiritual Companion, recently republished by Reformation Heritage Books. He offers these 4 directions:

Examine your repentance. Consider whether you have really repented of your former sins and purposed to lead a new life. You can help determine repentance by considering whether you have a sorrow for sin, a hatred of sin, a general forsaking of sin, and whether there are clear evidences of change in your heart and life. Have you confessed known sin? Are you genuinely sorry for how your sin has offended God? Is there evidence that God has been transforming you by his power?

Examine your faith. Consider whether you have a dead faith or a living faith—a mere speculative assent to the truth or a lively, genuine, energetic trust in God. This is the kind of faith that directs you to Christ as your propitiation and that lays hold of his strength as the only power that can cleanse and pardon you. Where is your trust? How often are you pondering the great truths of the gospel?

Examine your gratitude. Consider whether you are thankful for the precious privileges which are yours in Christ. If you are aware of the depth of your sin and the heights of God’s mercy, you must be filled with gratitude. Are you quick to give thanks when you pray? Are you quick to give thanks to God for his grace and mercy? Do you thank God for his most precious gift of his Son?

Examine your love. Consider whether you are “in charity with all men.” The Christian faith is a faith of love toward God that works itself out in love for one another. Are you harboring hatred or malice toward another person? Are you expressing love in acts of kindness and charity? Are you especially showing love to fellow believers?

“Let a person examine himself, then.” And let him do it by repentance, faith, gratitude, and love.

July 04, 2015

Thomas Kidd writes of The Final Break Between God and Country. “As proud as we may be of the American tradition, our nationalistic mixing of faith and state can make it difficult for us to see when the nation has gone wrong. It can also make it hard for us to know what to do when the nation has patently wandered from the truth.”

This site digs up the old question: How Did President Zachary Taylor Actually Die? It is a question that has perplexed people for some time now. But it seems there’s probably no mystery or conspiracy there.

The GTY Bible App is coming soon. Very soon. And it looks excellent.

Mike Wittmer is struck by our cultural leaders’ lack of sympathy for a religious perspective. And he draws an important lesson from it.

R.C. Sproul Jr. reflects on an interview he and I recently recorded together. (It will be out in the fall) He says that each of us is a Student in a School of Fools.

David Prince says Don’t Manuscript Your Sermons, and he says it in response to an article from 9Marks that advocates manuscripting. Between the two articles you’ll get the two sides of that discussion.

Winston Smith, a Christian counselor with CCEF, watched Inside Out and really enjoyed it. Here’s his review and analysis.

Thanks to NavPress for sponsoring the blog this week with Stealing from God.

There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done. —Hudson Taylor 

Taylor

 

July 03, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by a first-time sponsor: Founders Ministries. “Founders Ministries is a ministry of teaching and encouragement promoting both doctrine and devotion expressed in the Doctrines of Grace and their experiential application to the local church, particularly in the areas of worship and witness. Founders Ministries takes as its theological framework the first recognized confession of faith that Southern Baptists produced, The Abstract of Principles.”

Founders is offering an interesting prize package this week. There will be 5 winners and each of them will receive:

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.

July 03, 2015

I imagine you have read Douglas Adams’ quip before: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” It’s funny because we can all identify with it. We all know the panic of approaching deadlines, the pain of watching them fly on by, the guilt of explaining why we missed again. We all the know problem of procrastination that leads to so many of those misses.

Procrastination is a tricky little problem that can take different and even opposite forms. Procrastination can come in the form of laziness or the form of busyness. We procrastinate lazily when we neglect productivity in favor of entertainment—getting lost in a novel instead of cleaning the house, or watching Netflix instead of writing that report. We procrastinate busily when we neglect the most urgent and important tasks in favor of ones that are less important but a whole lot easier—we answer emails instead of working on the sermon, or we sweep the house when we should be painting it. Procrastination can take a million different forms.

There was a time in my life where I was awfully good at procrastination. Or awfully bad, depending on your perspective. I still can be if I don’t watch it. But along the way I learned how to (mostly) beat it (most of the time). Today I am going to offer you 2 big-picture tips and follow them with 2 very practical ones. These are the very things that I have found so helpful in my own life.

First, I had to see this: Procrastination is a problem of spirituality before it is a problem of productivity. I came to understand that God has put me on this earth to bring glory to him by doing good for others. If that is the case, then procrastination hinders my ability to carry out my purpose. It is downright evil. Whether I am avoiding the most urgent tasks by being very busy or very lazy, procrastination stems from sin and leads to sin. I had to learn that of all the things I could do on a given day or in a given moment, I was responsible to focus on the one or the few that I should do. And the way to do this was to begin my day with prayer, to commit all of my tasks to the Lord, and to remind myself each day that the best and highest kind of productivity is to effectively steward my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I formally remind myself of this each and every day.

Second, I had to learn a very important lesson: Not all procrastination is bad. At least, not if we allow God to define it on his terms. In the Old Testament God set a pattern that we are wise to follow: a pattern of work and rest. God worked for 6 days and then rested for 1. And later he commanded his people to do the same, to work for 6 days and then to stop their labor for the 7th. While our relationship to the Law is not the same as it was for the theocracy of Israel, and while the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ, the pattern is ingrained and enduring. We are wise to deliberately put off all of our tasks for 1 day out of every 7, to deliberately leave them for another time. When I take 1 day out of every 7 to focus on worship, fellowship, and rest, I am far more capable and motivated in the 6 that remain. I suffer no drop in productivity when I carefully and deliberately take a 24-hour period of rest each week.

Now, let me give two practical tips that have been especially important for me.

The first is to do the hardest thing on your list first. As I said earlier, we can masquerade as efficient people by doing many things, but still neglect the most important things. At the end of the day, it is far more important that I prepare my sermon than complete those 11 other small tasks. But it is easier and can feel far more fulfilling to go after the list and start crossing them off. After all, there is a feeling of accomplishment that comes when I can say at 11 AM that I have already accomplished 11 out of 12 things. But what I have actually done is used my best, most focused, and most productive hours of the day to avoid the task that takes the most focus and creative energy. So I always try to force myself to do the hardest thing first. I need to use the best of my day to do the single most important thing. It is a hard discipline, but a very important one.

My second tip is to break big tasks into small ones. Sometimes I find myself procrastinating because the task before me is daunting in its sheer size. “Write a book” is an overwhelming task. “Write chapter 1” is far more attainable, and “Write 1,000 words” even more so. I can overcome task paralysis by making my tasks much more reasonable in their size. Sure, it’s all really a mind trick, but it is an effective one that can motivate action.

There is much more I could say on the subject, of course. I have read many books and many articles on procrastination, but do believe that these 4 tips are the ones that have most helped me in overcoming what was once a losing battle. I hope they prove valuable to you.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 03, 2015

There haven’t been a lot of notable Kindle deals this week, but you may want to take a look at Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas which is just $1.99—it’s a solid biography of the always-fascinating William Wilberforce.

The Afternoon Slump - You can’t avoid that afternoon slump, so you may as well learn to work around it.

Distinguishing the Spirit from the Serpent - Sinclair Ferguson: “How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart?”

Three Scenes - How will you and your church contribute to the ministry of adoption? This article may help get started.

How Dangerous Is Turbulence? - How dangerous is the turbulence your plane experiences? Not very, it turns out, as long as you wear your seatbelt.

Calling to Ministry - The question of whether you are called to ministry should really become “Has God called me to be a leader in the church?” or “Does God want my specific ministry to be helping other people to minister?”

Mark it down—your progress in holiness will never exceed your relationship with the holy Word of God. —Nancy Leigh DeMoss

DeMoss