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August 2011

August 31, 2011

Last week I spent a long time studying the fourth chapter of Ruth, the climax to an amazing story. The bulk of chapter 4 is a description of a legal transaction between Boaz and one of his relatives as the two men decide which one of them will take upon himself the role of kinsman-redeemer. This strange transaction, which is eventually completed not with a signature but with the exchange of a sandal, offered me a glimpse into the heart of these 2 men and, from there, a glimpse into my own heart. Let me explain.

You remember the context, I’m sure. Naomi has been left without a husband and without an heir and, Ruth, her daughter-in-law, has asked their relative Boaz if he will become a kinsman-redeemer. If he accepts, he will take all that belongs to Naomi and he will marry Ruth; the first child born to them will not be considered his child, but the child of Naomi and her now-dead husband, Elimelech. This child will not carry on Boaz’s name and family line, but Elimelech’s. Though it is a significant commitment and a significant sacrifice, Boaz is willing. Before he can do this, though, he must see if this other relative, who is more closely related to Naomi, will accept the role. 

For that reason Boaz calls this man into a formal legal proceeding. He is a little bit crafty, first telling this man only that Naomi is seeking to sell all the land that belonged to Elimelech. He asks if this man will be willing to buy the land. At least for now he doesn’t mention anything about Ruth.

From a social perspective it makes a lot of sense to act as a kinsman-redeemer. There is great honor in being a redeemer and carrying out that kind of familial duty. It is probably be like being labeled a philanthropist today—not a bad title to carry around.

August 31, 2011

Things I Learned from Irene - This is a fantastic blog article that was composed with pen and ink on Monday afternoon, August 29. It had to be composed with pen and ink because it was written by someone who was in the path of Hurricane Irene. Read it!

Adam & Eve - Dr. Mohler clarifies what is at stake in the ongoing discussion about the historic Adam and Eve. “The denial of a historical Adam means not only the rejection of a clear biblical teaching, but the denial of the biblical doctrine of the Fall as well, leading to a very different way of telling the story of the Bible and the meaning of the Gospel.”

Better than Chick Lit - Carl Trueman: “Last month, I devoted this column to reflecting on some of the areas of Catholicism with which Protestants can not only sympathise but from which they can learn much to their profit. This month, I want to spend my time looking at areas where principled disagreements exist.”

Confess Your Sins - Michael Krahn gives you 4 reasons that you ought to confess your sins to someone.

Was Paul Married? - I really appreciate the job Denny Burk does here of looking at the evidence and trying to figure out if the Apostle Paul was ever married.

Good Book Blog - The Good Book blog is sharing some ways that you could use Christianity Explored in creative ways. They are also sharing stories from some who have done just that.

Text, Don’t Talk - “When it comes to communication, our new motto may well be: text me—don’t tell me. According to new data from J.D. Power, a consumer research and marketing company, Americans are now talking on their cellphones over an hour less per month than in 2009.”

If your knowledge of doctrine does not make you a great man of prayer, you had better examine yourself again. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

August 30, 2011

Going PublicThere was a time when homeschooling was a very lonely place to be. Perhaps in some contexts it still is. In today’s Christian circles though, at least the circles I’ve been exposed to locally and across the continent, it seems that homeschooling has entered the mainstream and for many families is now the default option. Speaking from experience, as the father of 3 children who all attend local public schools, I can attest that public schooling can be a very lonely place as well. Not only that, but there is little guidance for those of us who have chosen to educate our children in this way.

I recently came across a book titled Going Public, written by David and Kelli Pritchard, who together have raised 8 children, all of whom attended public schools. This is not a book that is anti-homeschool or anti-Christian school. The purpose is not to convince you that you ought to place your children in the local public school. Instead it seeks first, to show that your children can thrive at public school and second, to provide a parent’s field guide for helping them do just that. In this way it fills an important niche.

What the Pritchards do is simple: they allow us into their home and family, telling us why they made the decision to public school and then showing us how they have gone about it. It’s not like they public school out of ignorance. To the contrary, they do what they do out of conviction that this is the way they can best raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. That word “fear” is important to them. Following Proverbs, they say that the fear of the Lord “is the foundation on which all learning, all knowledge-gathering, all schooling should be built.” To do that, they focus on instructing their children from their earliest days in loving the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength; on learning unconditional obedience to their parents; and on attaining self-control. With these values being instilled in their children, they are ready to guide them through their education. 

August 30, 2011

The Bible in 2 Weeks - Dane Ortlund: “If a freshman in college or stay-at-home mom or aspiring deacon or friend from work or anyone else asked me how they might get a rough grasp of the macro-storyline of the Bible in a few weeks, I’d send them not to any secondary resource but to the Bible itself for a reading plan that might look something like this.”

Keep Reforming - John MacArthur shares the final part of his series to the Young, Restless, Reformed crowd. “The great leaders you admire from past generations—the architects of the Reformation theology you say you love—do not occupy that heroic stance in our thinking because of their wardrobe, cultural savvy, musical style, or ability to identify with the behavior and tastes of the unconverted.”

Hurricane Irene - The Big Picture has a photo gallery of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Wasn’t it interesting to note how disappointed the media seemed that the destruction was relatively minor?

Accountability on the Student Side - “Here’s a distressing trend for college teachers to face. According to The American Freshman Survey, the percentage of high-school seniors who study six or more hours per week has dropped significantly in the last 20 years. In the late-80s, the rate stood in the upper 40-percent range. By late-00s, we had fallen to the low 30-percent range.”

The Most Feared Blessing - “I think we can agree on this one: Personal suffering is the thing we fear the most. Think about it for a minute. There are certain things that come to mind that cause or tempt you to fear. Maybe you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about those things and that is probably a good thing.”

Dutch Women - Maclean’s magazine has an interesting article about how Dutch women got to be the happiest in the world. “Few Dutch women work full-time—does this mean they’re powerless, or simply smarter than the rest of us?”

Inflation as a Solution - This is an interesting proposal. It doesn’t seem fair, of course, but someone is going to have to bear the brunt if this debt problem is ever to be resolved.

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. —Tim Keller

August 29, 2011

I lay in bed for quite a long time this morning, in that strange state that is somewhere between asleep and awake—that place where the mind is working but the body is not. My mind was racing back and forth and eventually settled on an old memory. It’s a memory I hate and one of those I would purge if I could.

It goes back to a conference I attended in 2006. Not long before the conference I had reviewed a book and had taken issue with the theology it taught. The book had showed up at my house unsolicited and, after reading it, I posted a review that pointed out what I considered some significant weaknesses. Here I was now, several weeks later, walking the halls of a convention center. As I moved through the crowd, a little ways ahead of me and coming directly toward me, I saw the author of that book walking, talking and laughing with a friend of mine. They hadn’t yet seen me but were heading straight toward me and I knew that if we were to pass one another, my friend would stop and introduce us.

In that moment I felt a strange flush of shame and conviction. In that moment I realized that this author was a real person. I guess I should have known that, but somehow it hadn’t really occurred to me. It was so easy for me to read a book and post a review on the Internet without thinking of the fact that this author was a real person. He was not just some cleverly-programmed computer who spat out books and he was not a one-dimensional evil heretic who was out to subdue the Christian faith. He was a believer and one much like me, but for some fairly subtle theological differences.

August 29, 2011

Alternative Medicine - Ed Welch doing what he does so well: “Have you noticed that alternative medicine is becoming more popular? (This will have something to do with biblical counseling, just give me a minute.) Acupuncturists are busier than ever. Wretched tasting herbal drinks are the new coffee. Food is no longer just for bodily maintenance—it can now be a treatment.”

A Preacher’s Decalogue - Sinclair Ferguson doing what he does so well: “What Ten Commandments, what rule of preaching-life, do I wish someone had written for me to provide direction, shape, ground rules, that might have helped me keep going in the right direction and gaining momentum in ministry along the way?”

It Was Nice While it Lasted - R.C. Sproul Jr. on the New Calvinism: “It is a sure sign that sin messes things up that we keep watching the same boxing match over and over again, between truth and unity.  Both sides, of course, insist that they have a deep and abiding love for the other. They shake hands in the center of the ring, go back to their corners, wait for the bell and come out ready to destroy the one they love. In the stands we stand, screaming ourselves hoarse in defense of our favorite.”

Visiting the Sick - Paul Tautges has a valuable article on how pastors can train the people in their church to do the work of visiting the sick.

Why McDonald’s Wins - This article explains how and why McDonald’s always wins, even during tough economic times.

Handheld Affections - I recently did a short interview for WORLD magazine and they’ve just posted it online.

Price Gouging - “If the usual pattern holds, opportunistic politicians will soon be out denouncing price-gouging connected with Hurricane Irene, while opportunistic free-market economists will soon be out placing op-ed pieces defending prices as the best way to allocate scarce resources and to assure their delivery when and where they are needed….”

If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. —C.S. Lewis

August 28, 2011

How can I know that I’m a Christian? This is a question most of us have faced at one time or another, and even if we have not asked it ourselves, it’s likely that someone has asked for our help in wrestling through it. I recently came across an article from Michael McKinley that provides an interesting counter-question: How Can I know that I’m not a Christian?

In II Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul commands his readers: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

OK, that seems straightforward enough.  But what does it mean to examine yourself?  What should you be looking for?  How do you know whether or not you are “in the faith”?  What is the “test” that we might fail?  I wrote Am I Really a Christian? in order to try to help answer these questions.

Well, we should all hope that we pass “the test” (again, Paul’s words, not mine!).  And Scripture gives us a few things to look for that would indicate that in fact we are not “in the faith”.  A few examples:

You’re not a Christian if you don’t believe true doctrine: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (I John 4:2-3)

You’re not a Christian if you enjoy sin: “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (I John 2:4-6)

You’re not a Christian if you don’t persevere: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (I John 2:19)

You’re not a Christian if you don’t love others: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:7-8)

You’re not a Christian if you love your stuff more than you love Jesus: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

August 27, 2011

How Did the Animals Know? - “Shortly before the earthquake hit Washington, D.C., the animals in the National Zoo started freaking out. So did lots of people’s housepets, with sleepy cats suddenly jumping up and heading for the hills just prior to the quake. Scientists can’t figure out how they knew…”

Welcome Home - Here’s a blog that exists just to document surprise military homecomings. It will probably make you cry.

Free Sproul Series - Ligonier is offering 3 of R.C. Sproul’s most popular teaching series free online: Chosen by GodThe Holiness of God and What Is Reformed Theology?

Sign of the Times - I noticed yesterday that the New York Times list of bestsellers now features combined print and e-book fiction and non-fiction rather than listing only hardcover and softcover. It’s about time. I wish Heaven Is For Real wasn’t at the top of the new list…

The Twitter Effect - I was wondering the other day how many people first learned of the D.C. earthquake via social media. “Just as CNN created the 24-hours news cycle for television, Twitter has accelerated that news cycle to the point where news breaks every minute of every hour, and a tweet is almost as good as a page-one scoop. Not only that, but anyone can do it.”

Recommended Books on Leadership - From Gospel Coalition: “The Bible isn’t exhaustive when it comes leadership, but good leadership principles will resonate with it. We asked Matt Perman to suggest books to help us think through theological and practical issues that every leader faces.”

Toronto’s Storm - Yesterday I wrote about the storm that came through Toronto. Here’s a video.

Grace comes not to take away a man’s affections, but to take them up. —William Fenner