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April 2012

April 30, 2012

Visual Theology
I hope you are enjoying this Visual Theology series of infographics as much as I am. The series has now visited the ordo salutis, the attributes of Godthe books of the BiblePhilippians 4:8the genealogy of Jesus Christthe TrinityPhilippians 2:5-11, the Old Testament tabernacle and the fruit of the Spirit. Today it continues with a look at Reformed theology, focusing on the five pillars and the five points of theology that emerged from the Reformation.

(Click on the thumbnail image below to see the complete infographic)

Reformed Theology

Visual Theology Store

If you are after a high-res version, you can have it here in JPG format (8 MB). Please feel free to download, copy, email, share, or print the graphic; I just ask that you don’t sell it.

If you have other ideas for theological infographics, please feel free to leave a comment. Several more are already in development.

April 30, 2012

A little while ago God did what he sometimes does and rather suddenly made it very clear to me that I had a sin in my life—a prominent sin—that had somehow been hidden to me. It surprised just how prevalent this sin was, how ugly, and how little I knew about it. Once I saw it and once I tried to understand it, I came to see that it may well be a sin you struggle with as well. It is one of those sins we talk about very little and one of those sins that has wormed its way into our culture and into the church. It may just be a lost sin, a sin we’ve forgotten about. Many of us don’t even have a clear category for it anymore. Ancient writers and theologians talked about it a lot, even suggesting that it was the second most serious and second most prevalent of all the sins, and yet today it has almost disappeared from our vocabulary or it has been confused with related sins like jealousy or covetousness. That sin is Envy.

Proverbs says that whoever walks with the wise will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm (13:20). What I found out is that Envy has been a friend of mine for a long, long time. I just didn’t realize it until recently. He has infected me with his foolishness. Let me tell you how he’s worked in my life.

Nine years ago I slapped together a little web site so I could share a couple of articles with my parents. The Lord took that site and has done something amazing so that today tens of thousands of people read it every day. Not only that, but I have been able to write books and I have been able to travel all around to teach and preach and so much more. You might think that I would be just thrilled with all that has happened and certainly I should be. And yet I came to see that this really was not the case. Instead I was growing resentful, I was envious of what I didn’t have and of what God hadn’t given me. I came to see that I had made friends with Envy. 

For the next couple of days I want to write about Envy, sharing some of what I’ve learned about it, about him. I want you to be able to know Envy when you see him because maybe, just maybe, you’ve become friends with him as well.

Today I want to introduce to you Envy in two ways—first by giving you a look at his list of accomplishments and then by telling you what God says about him.

April 30, 2012

Suffering Is a Gift - I found this excellent article both encouraging and challenging. “In the last number of years, especially as a Christian, even though I ‘knew’ in the back of my mind that none of us is guaranteed a long life, I didn’t think much about dying young. But, when I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia in December, it only took a day for me to accept that very real possibility.”

On Writing a Book on Lin - Ted Kluck reflects on writing a book about Jeremy Lin (Do you remember Jeremy Lin?).

Racism and George Zimmerman - Thomas Sowell brings out some important points here. “An amazing proportion of the media has given us a painful demonstration of the thinking — and lack of thinking — that prevailed back in the days of the old Jim Crow South, where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people were treated.”

On Watching Bad Movies - I’m glad that there are people out there who watch movies and tell us which ones the rest of us shouldn’t see. One of those people writes about how he can do this.

Nature - There is some amazing nature photography on display in this gallery.

Whither the Seminary Model - There are interesting discussions these days about the future of the seminary model of training pastors. Here William Evans offers some thoughts on an article posted last week at The Gospel Coalition. This is a discussion worth having!

The Digital Gender Divide - “In a report released this morning, Nielsen found that women, overall, are significantly more likely to engage with social media than men.” There are some interesting implications to this, some of what are brought out in the article.

As for beauty, one of its most potent charms lies in its modest unconsciousness; it is greatly marred when accompanied by vanity. —C.H. Spurgeon

April 29, 2012

Though prayer is instictive, it is also difficult labor. David M’Intyre makes and explains this point in his book The Hidden Life of Prayer:


Instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him. The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness.

“Dear Christian reader,” says Jacob Boehme, “to pray aright is right earnest work.” Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the “heavenly footman.” The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill. Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter. A man that truly prays one prayer,” says Bunyan, “shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.” The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: “Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,” they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, “He shall have whatsoever he saith.” Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward. The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these prayer is one. One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, “It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.” David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul “exceedingly enlarged” in supplication, he was “in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,” that when he rose from his knees he felt “extremely weak and overcome.” “I could scarcely walk straight,” he goes on to say, “my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.” A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.

Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is “the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.” St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day. Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into “dry” and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer. Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage. “And what I say unto you,” said the Lord to His disciples, “I say unto all, Watch! “

April 28, 2012

It occurred to me recently that I own several books dedicated to the topics of humility and pride (and, I’m sure, many more that deal with them in passing). I began to wonder how each of the authors define their terms and, with a little bit of research, here is what I came up with. You will see that all define humility but not all so clearly define pride.

William Farley (Gospel-Powered Humility)

Humility is the capacity to see myself in God’s light, in the context of his holiness and my sinfulness.

Pride is spiritual blindness, a delusional, inflated view of self. It is unreality on steriods.

Let me also include a worthy quote: “Here is the great paradox: the proud man thinks he is humble, but the humble man thinks he is proud. The humble man sees his arrogance. He sees it clearly, and as a result he aggressively pursues a life of humility, but he doesn’t think of himself as humble. The proud man is completely unaware of his pride. Of all men he is most convinced that he is humble.”

C.J. Mahaney (Humility: True Greatness)

Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon him.

Wayne Mack (Humilty: The Forgotten Virtue)

Humility consists in an attitude wherein we recognize our own insignificance and unworthiness before God and attribute to Him the supreme honor, praise, prerogatives, rights, privileges, worship, devotion, authority, submission, and obedience that He alone deserves. It also involves a natural, habitual tendency to think and behave in a manner that appropriately expresses this attitude.

Andrew Murray (Humility)

Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.

Conclusions

Based on these definitions, it seems that the key to pride is the desire to elevate myself so I can have God’s position and status for myself. It effectively lowers God as it elevates self. Humility, on the other hand, is simply a right assessment of myself that takes into account the infinitely vast gulf between Him and me. Put in those terms it hardly seems like it should be the lifelong battle it is for each of us. And yet we feel its pull every day.

April 27, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by first-time sponsor Discovery House Publishers. Discovery House has published several books that I’ve endorsed and/or reviewed in the past couple of years and they have packaged them up here and made them available for this giveaway. There are five prize packs to win and each one will contain a copy of all three of these books:

  • The Last EnemyThe Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life by Michael Wittmer (my review)
  • Written in Tears: A Grieving Father’s Journey Through Psalm 103 by Luke Veldt (my review)
  • You Are the Treasure that I Seek by Greg Dutcher (my review)

I chose Written in Tears as one of my top picks in 2011, saying “Several years ago Luke Veldt suffered the unexpected and devastating loss of his thirteen-year-old daughter. After Allison’s death, Veldt turned to Psalm 103 and he read it again and again. He read it every day for more than a year, and through that psalm he experienced God’s presence. This book, a short but powerful little volume, shares many of the lessons the Lord taught him through his grief. It makes for valuable reading for those who have suffered loss or those who are seeking to help others who have experienced loss. It’s profoundly moving and deeply biblical.”

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

Note: If you are reading via RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the form.

April 27, 2012

Here are seven ways that you can pray about your prayer life. These are seven items you can add to your prayer list as you consider your own prayer life or another person’s.

1) Pray that your prayers would be the expressions of a humble heart.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)

2) Pray that God would remind you that he doesn’t want or need your eloquent prayers.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

3) Pray that you would remember what the really important requests are.

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

April 27, 2012

The Flight from Conversation - Sherry Turkle writing for the New York Times: “We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”

Ligonier Connect - Ligonier Ministries offers courses you can take online and they’ve just made it even more accessible with new and lower pricing. “For only $9 per month, you’ll gain unlimited access to all online courses in the catalog and be able to create as many groups as you want. There is no minimum commitment and you can cancel at any time.”

On Voting for Mitt Romney - Douglas Groothuis just posted an article titled “Why A Principled-Conservative, Bible-Believing Protestant, and Counter-cult Expert Will Vote for Mitt Romney.” It’s worth a read.

Stop Your Cheatin’ Ways - Kevin DeYoung writes about slee p and the way we think we can steal time when really we’re only borrowing it.

Why Batteries Degrade - You know you’ve wondered this!

Father Absence - Christianity Today looks at Lecrae’s Man Up mission. “Lecrae, whose outspoken faith and creative rhymes have gained the attention of John Piper and BET alike, has skyrocketing album sales for a Christian hip-hop artist, landing on Billboard’s top 200 and independent album charts. But the Houston native is determined to steward his recent fame to address chronic social ills affecting communities nationwide, one man at a time.”

If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. —C.H. Spurgeon