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September 2006

September 22, 2006

If you were to do a Google search for the term “planned neglect” you would likely encounter a host of articles dealing with politics. At the forefront you would find articles about New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many locals, dismayed at the way the disaster was handled, charged various levels of government with planned neglect, insisting that the city had not been merely killed but had been murdered. Neglect had led to the death of the city. But there is more to planned neglect than mere politics.

I think “planned neglect” (or the similar “deliberate neglect”) is a principle that Christians would do well to consider. It is a discipline that can benefit anyone.

The principle is illustrated in a story that has often been told of a famous concert violinist who played in New York’s Carnegie Hall. When asked how she had become so skillful, she replied that it was through planned neglect. “I decide every day that I will neglect things and even people, that would take me away from the priority of practicing.” She was focused on a particular end and was willing to neglect whatever did not lead to that end.

Jesus sometimes displayed small cases of planned neglect in his ministry. When told that his friend Lazarus was dying, Jesus did not immediately rush to his side, but tarried where he was for several days. When he finally did arrive, Lazarus was already dead and buried. Mary and Martha both cried to Jesus “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet Jesus had planned this neglect. Jesus wept by the tomb of his friend. For three days He had deliberately neglected his own feelings, for surely He desired to rush to Bethany to protect his friend and his friend’s sisters from the pain of illness, death and separation. Still, this was not his Father’s will. Jesus knew that “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” And so the Son would be glorified, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb. His planned neglect furthered the Father’s plan by bringing glory to Him.

What is true of this concert violinist and of Jesus is true of many of the great Christians. Biographies of great Christian men and women are filled with examples of what they have deliberately neglected in order to pursue their callings from God. Missionaries have neglected the comforts and safeties of their homelands in order to take the gospel to the far corners of the world. Pastors have neglected careers that would have been far easier and would have come with far more generous financial rewards. Countless Christians have neglected hobbies or passions that would taken time they would rather have dedicated to serving the Lord or learning about Him.

I have often been challenged by the concept of planned neglect. I tend to live a pretty comfortable life and tend to follow the desires of my heart. I am often not strong enough to neglect things that draw me away from responsibilities that are less pressing but far more important. And yet sometimes God works in me to realize that there are certain things I can live without. My passion for football is fading in direct proportion to the growth of my family, so that Sunday afternoons can be more of a time to spend with family and less of a time to spend lying on the couch. My desire to watch television in the evenings is also decreasing so I can spend that time more profitably. While God has helped in this, I have had to deliberately choose to neglect things that I love. I’m grateful that God has worked in me to allow me to do this.

There remains much for me to do. I continue to find new and creative ways to waste time. I continue to spend far too much time doing what is useless and what profits nothing. I continue to plan what I must neglect next. I trust that God will continue to show me what I must neglect and that He will empower me to do so.

September 22, 2006

Friday September 22, 2006

History: Dr. Haykin was kind enough to answer a question I posed to him about the best one-volume church history text.

Books: Looks like Yancey’s new book is going to be a popular one. I posted the review only a couple of days ago and already it has 26 votes (only 12 of which are “yes” votes!).

Blogs: I don’t know how I missed this one, but the New Attitude site relaunched a few days ago with a snazzy new design. Their 2007 conference is on the topic of discernment. You can bet that I intend to be there (not that I endorse betting).

Books Bonus: Anthony Carter mentions a new book by Steve Lawson entitled “The Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men.” This is the first in a series of five books. It looks like it will be an excellent series! The books are available only through Ligonier Ministries.

Evangelism: Paul Kaiser posts on The Reformed Evangelist about a recent Great News Network Evangelism Boot Camp. It looks like an incredible and challenging experience!

September 21, 2006

Dr. Don Kistler sent the following document to me this evening and asked if I would publish it on my blog. It deals with the ongoing and increasingly-public allegations made against Ligonier Ministries, many of which involve Dr. Kistler’s name. I am glad to publish this exactly as it was provided to me.

A Public Statement from Dr. Don Kistler
Managing Editor, Soli Deo Gloria Publications
A Division of Ligonier Ministries

I have been reading several blogsites lately where things have been posted regarding Ligonier Ministries and its president and CEO, Tim Dick, and the acquisition of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. I think that I am in a good position to correct some misconceptions and misrepresentations regarding that situation and subsequent allegations.

First, Soli Deo Gloria was not defrauded by Tim Dick or Ligonier. Our ministry was not stolen. We signed an agreement to become part of Ligonier Ministries. There was no switching of contracts, and there was no duplicity in their dealings with us. I have no idea where this came from, or who is making such statements-but they did not come from me.

Second, I am not being mistreated by R.C. Sproul. He is not treating me as a “persona non grata,” nor is he failing to speak to me. Neither am I seeing any form of retaliation from Tim Dick, as has been erroneously reported. Those things have simply not happened.

Third, I can accept invitations to speak and/or preach as I am asked. Ligonier has been most accommodating in that respect.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed for me during my recent stroke due to a brain hemorrhage. I am recovering well, albeit slowly. This is why it has taken me until now to respond regarding this matter.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the allegations and accusations that have been made. I also hope it serves to restore people’s opinions regarding Tim Dick, Ligonier Ministries, and my dear friend R. C. Sproul. He remains the object of my highest respect and deepest affection, and I look forward to many years of serving the Lord as part of the Ligonier Ministries team.

Dr. Don Kistler

September 21, 2006

John Eldredge - The Way of the Wild HeartJohn Eldredge’s Wild at Heart is a runaway bestseller. Though it debuted in 2001, it still remains near the top of the list of Christian bestsellers and has sold over three million copies, no small feat for a title marketed primarily to Christians. Unfortunately, sales figures do not indicate which books are most faithful to Scripture (indeed, one could probably make an argument that sales figures are inversely proportional to theological faithfulness) and a large number of reviewers, myself included, have pointed out some troubling flaws with the book. In Fools Gold, edited by John MacArthur, Daniel Gillespie examined the book and nicely summarized the foremost problems with the book, suggesting it has: an insufficient view of Scripture; an inadequate picture of God; an incomplete portrait of Christ; and an inaccurate portrait of man. In short, the book was deeply flawed.

September 21, 2006

Thursday September 21, 2006

Books: Monergism Books is having a moving sale. They have lots of great books, Bibles and DVDs available at low prices.

Du Jour: A reader sent me a link to the site of a young Christian woman who could use our prayers. “Bonnie has a mitochondrial cytopathy (a multi organ failure disease), which was diagnosed in Boston in January 2006 and has caused either failure or damage to many of her organs.”

Law: John Mark Carr, the man who claimed responsibility for the death of JonBenet Ramsey, has (as predicted) been offered a deal that would see him walk free without facing any serious charges, even for the child pornography charges against him. That whole confession was merely a ruse to help him avoid paying for his other crimes.

Personal: Fall must be upon us. When I went out for my walk this morning, the thermometer was reading a mere 7 degrees (Celsius). When I got back it was down to 6 degrees. It’s all downhill from here!

September 20, 2006

The Wiggles are big business. The group of four Aussies, who got their start fifteen years ago, are now among the world’s most popular children’s entertainers. Its four members (Anthony, Greg, Murray and Jeff) and their friends (Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword the friendly pirate) have been entertaining Australian children with their song and dance since 1991. The Sydney-based band is also popular in other English-speaking countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Even in South America and Europe, there are Wiggles songs sung in Spanish and Portuguese.

In a unique move, The Wiggles have licensed their name and image to media outlets in several Asian nations. “Through a deal with the Walt Disney Channel, the band has authorized various Asian clones that perform its hit song ‘Hot Potato’ in different local languages. The first Taiwanese Wiggles debuted in March of 2003, closely followed by a Japanese version. The Taiwanese group has also adapted several of the original Wiggles songs into Mandarin - something that seems to have further contributed to the group’s increasing popularity around the island. According to Taiwan’s Taipei Times, recent television ratings show that ‘a staggering 3.2 percent of the island’s population tune into the evening Wiggles show on a daily basis. Ratings for the show’s morning and afternoon slots are somewhat lower, and presently stand at 0.69 and 1.04 percent of the population respectively.’ The success of the Taiwanese Wiggles suggests the amazing power of popular media products across geo-political boundaries. Yet, it also indicates the extent to which these products need to be localized in order to cross various cultural barriers successfully.”

Steve, a reader of this site (and a Sovereign Grace Ministries insider), sent me a picture of The Wiggles and compared it to one I posted on my site yesterday. He suggests that perhaps the Wiggles are also being franchised to appeal to different audiences even within North America. They are being localized not only across cultural barriers, but across age barriers. Is it possible that the photo below represents auditions for the new “The Wiggles for Seniors?” You tell me!

The New Wiggles

I don’t intend to make this blog another Purgatorio. It is fun to laugh sometimes and I just couldn’t turn this one down. We’ll now return to our regularly-scheduled, far more serious programming. Honest.

September 20, 2006

Having just read a book about prayer, and having sought recently to increase the presence of prayer in my life, I turned a few days ago to the topic of persistence in prayer. I soon found something I had written about this in the past and thought I would share it with you today, hoping that it will prove beneficial to you as it has to me.

It is the Lord’s delight to give us what we ask of Him in prayer. With David we all ought to cry out, “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Psalm 54:2). If Christians did not believe in the efficacy of prayer, there would be no reason for us to ask anything of God. He tells us that we can have this confidence. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14,15). While most Christian pay lip-service to the superlatives in that sentence (“whatever” and “anything”) very few really believe it.

The fact is that our prayers are often hindered. There are times when it feels like our prayers are reaching the ceiling and going no further; times when we are lying face-down on the floor and feel that our prayers are rising no higher than the fibers of the carpet. While we can be sure that God does hear our prayers, there are times when He chooses not to heed or answer them. What is especially tragic is that I am the only one who can hinder my prayers. You are the only one who can hinder your prayers. I cannot hinder your prayers anymore than you can hinder mine. And while we may have done much to hinder our prayers, we are not necessarily even aware of this. Allow me to present six ways we can hinder our prayers so that God will not answer them. This list is incomplete, for there may be other ways our prayers are hindered, but it contains the most likely and significant ways.

Selfish Motives

All humans are selfish. It is part of our human nature that we naturally regard our own interests ahead of the interests of others. And sadly, we often regard our own interests ahead of God’s. In the passage we read above, 1 John 5:14 and 15, the apostle tells us that our confidence comes from asking “according to his [God’s] will.” James similarly exhorts “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

So the first hindrance to our prayer is our motives. We must ask in accordance with God’s will. We must ask only for things that are consistent with the character and nature of God. We must ask for things that are for the spiritual benefit of ourselves or the person we pray for.

Turning Away From Scripture

If we are not spending time immersing ourselves in Scripture and are not obeying what we have learned, we should not expect God to answer our prayers. Our defiance in ignoring the life-giving Words of the Bible may hinder us from having our prayers answered. Solomon goes so far as to suggest that prayers made from such a hardened heart are an abomination to God. “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).

When we read the Words of Scripture, we ask and encourage God to speak to us. He provides the understanding we need to live lives that bring glory to Him - lives that are increasingly consistent with His standards of grace and holiness. If we thumb our nose at the importance of this discipline and if we disobey what He teaches, He will not answer our prayers.

Unforgiving Hearts

The Christian has been forgiven for the greatest of offenses. He has been forgiven for knowingly, purposely and unrepentantly transgressing the Law of God. And yet we are often slow to forgive our fellow man for the smallest of transgressions, for even the biggest of the sins committed against us are as nothing compared to how we sinned against God. God does not honor this attitude. In Mark 11:25 Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Our ongoing assurance of pardon before the Father is in some way dependant on our willingness to forgive others. We must be attentive to our hearts, to ensure that we are not harboring hatred and resentment towards others. If we have this attitude we should expect our prayers to be hindered.

Family Discord

It is God’s will that families live together in peace and harmony. It is, of course, impossible for us to live in perfect peace, but God demands that we maintain close relationships and that we seek harmony in our family relationships. It is foremost the responsibility of the father, as the head of the household, to ensure that there is not discord within the family. When this discord exists, especially in the relationship of a husband to his wife, his prayers may well be hindered. The apostle Peter, a married man himself, exhorted husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, being sensitive to their needs, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

The relationship between a husband and a wife is to reflect that of Christ to His church. It is to be a relationship of absolute love, adoration and sacrifice. If Christ gave His life for the church, how can a husband do any less for his wife? This is, of course, impossible when the relationship is strained or broken. Thus a man should examine his relationship with his wife to ensure this is not a hindrance to his prayers.

Unconfessed Sin

Just as unforgiveness can hinder our prayers, so can sin in our lives that we have refused to confess before God. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). Before we conclude that God has simply not heard or prayers or that it is not His will to give us what we ask, we need to examine our hearts to see if unconfessed sin stands as a barrier between ourselves and God.

While we need to continually examine our hearts, we need also to ask God to reveal our sin to us. We should ask those closest to us what they have observed in our lives. While God most often reveals sin through the reading of and meditating upon His Word, we should realize that if we do not learn our lesson from Scripture, He may have to resort to harsher tactics where our sin is revealed before others, even publicly. While this may be difficult and humiliating, He does so because He loves us and does not wish for this sin to continue to corrupt us and to stand as a barrier between Himself and us.

Doubt

God wants us to have confidence in His ability and willingness to provide what is necessary for us to attain to godliness. He wants us to believe that He can and will do what He says. Thus when we doubt - when we ask expecting rejection and when we ask almost hoping for rejection - we will hinder our prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7).

Our prayer cannot be separated from our faith. If we are to ask God, we must ask with expectancy, believing in our heart of hearts that God can and will give what we want, provided that what we want is really what we need! We are to ask with confidence and expectancy.

Conclusion

The eighteenth chapter of Luke is premised with the following words: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus goes on to share the parable of the persistent widow. It is a parable designed to teach the importance of persisting in prayer. It is God’s desire that we persist in our petitions before Him. When we ask and do not receive, we need to examine ourselves and question why our prayers are being hindered. Are we asking selfishly? Have we turned away from God, harbored unforgiveness in our hearts or ignored sin in our lives? Or have we allowed discord to creep into our families? These questions can lead us back to the Word of God and guide us to an examination of our hearts.

September 20, 2006

Wednesday September 20, 2006

Fundamentalism: Someone else is trying to put the fun in fundamentalism…but it doesn’t sound like much fun. “The beauty of the Edinburgh Fringe and its uncurated philosophy is that it provides a useful annual barometer of the nation’s obsessions. And this year, unsurprisingly, the nation is obsessed with God.”

Du Jour: My sister pointed me to an amazing story. Who but God could help a person go through all of that and have her arrive at the end saying “God is so good.”

Abortion: CNN reports on a story that shows just how far some people are willing to go to kill the unborn.

Driscoll: Mark Driscoll has an interesting post reflecting on the upcoming ten year anniversary of Mars Hill Church. “We’re not a perfect people and this is not a perfect church led by perfect men. But we worship the perfect Jesus and He promises to make everything perfect in its time. These seasons are the means by which He sanctifies us to be more like Him if we lean into them with gladness and trust that God is loving and works out all things for our good and His glory.”