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Set An Example
October 14, 2016

A few weeks ago I was in Cambridge, England, participating in a writing tour and workshop. We had one afternoon to ourselves and since I was not feeling particularly creative in that moment, decided to explore the town. I happened across a museum and, since it was free, thought I’d take a look. I wandered through exhibit after exhibit, admiring ancient and medieval antiquities. My time was nearly up when I came to one final room which held a collection of paintings. I was shocked to suddenly find myself among the masters. There on the wall were paintings by Rubens, Monet, Matisse, and others. Who knew this little museum had amassed such an impressive collection? There was something inspiring about being in the presence of greatness, inches from the works of the masters.

I have been writing a series of articles about a different kind of art and today I want to add a new entry to it. (Here’s part one and part two.) The series is based on 1 Timothy 4:12 and geared especially to younger Christians. To this point we’ve taken a look at the first part of our text: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example…” We saw Paul the mentor telling young Timothy not to give in to the low expectations of the people around him. Timothy needed to understand that even as a younger person he was meant to make his life a work of art that others could see, admire, and imitate.

Today we are going to begin to look at the specific ways Timothy is to set an example, to be that work of art. Here is what Paul writes: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

There are 5 areas in which Timothy is to serve as an example to other believers:

  • in his speech
  • in his conduct
  • in his love
  • in his faith
  • in his purity

These traits fall into two groupings. Speech and conduct are primarily displayed outwardly while love, faith, and purity are primarily traits of the inner self. Thus Timothy is to ensure that his words and deeds are admirable and also to examine his heart to ensure his love, faith, and purity are equally exemplary, knowing that these inner traits will eventually display themselves through what he says and does. Over the next few weeks I want to look at these traits one by one and I want to make them applicable to you and to me. Our first challenge is to consider what it means to set an example in your speech.

Set an Example in Your Speech

You do not need to read far into the Bible to see the power of words. Actually, you only need to get to the third verse of the first book to see it. In Genesis 1:3 God speaks and begins to bring the world into existence. By the end of chapter 2 he has spoken into being everything that is, including humanity. He has declared that everything he has made is good and very good. God’s words are powerful!

Then chapter 3 comes and we begin to see the danger of misusing words. Here Satan speaks words meant to deceive human beings, Adam speaks words meant to blame his wife for his own sin, Eve speaks words meant to deflect the blame from herself. By the time all is said and done, the world will never be the same, so that in Genesis 4, brothers are killing one another and lying to God about it, Lamech is making outrageous boasts about his own importance, and it only gets worse from there. Words can cause so much good. Words can cause so much harm.

It is no surprise, then, that the Bible addresses our words. It is no surprise that Paul addresses Timothy’s words: “Set the believers an example in speech.” As Paul says this, he uses one of those Greek words you may already know: logos, or λόγος if you prefer. It’s the word for word, for the communication that comes out of our mouths—or, by extension, the words that come out through our thumbs or fingers when we type and tap rather than speak.

Out of the Overflow

Paul wants Timothy to know that his words have the power to make or break his ministry. His words can help others or harm them, they can encourage others or destroy them. As a preacher and leader, Timothy will be speaking a lot of words and every one of them will have the power to prove him an example to follow or a disaster to avoid.

Why are words so important? Jesus gives the answer in Luke 6:45: “Out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks.” The alarming truth is that the mouth reveals what is in the heart. It is like the heart overflows so that what is in the heart comes pouring out of the mouth. Ugly words reveal an inner ugliness and beautiful words reveal an inner beauty. James asks “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water” (James 3:11)? Obviously not. Salty water comes from a salty spring just like salty words come from a salty heart.

Paul knew all of this and wanted Timothy to know it as well. In his other letters Paul insists that some ways of speaking are completely inappropriate for Christians and must be avoided at all costs. These are the kinds of speech associated with the old man, with the old way of living: falsehood, anger, bitterness, slander, malice, abusive speech, and filthy talk. All of these are unsuitable for Christians and will damage their credibility. Other ways of speaking are to be pursued, and these are the ones associated with the new man, with the new way of living: truth, edification, admonition, tenderness, forgiveness, and thanks. These are suitable for Christians and give evidence of their holiness and spiritual maturity.(1)

Timothy’s challenge was to put to death all those old ways of speaking and to bring to life all those new ways of speaking. He was to ensure that every word that came out of his mouth was good, true, and exemplary. His ministry, his credibility, his usefulness to God depended on it.

Timothy’s challenge is your challenge. Today’s world gives you more opportunities than ever to use your words—to express them face to face, to type them into Facebook, to tap them into a text message, to speak them through Snapchat. You communicate constantly and every one of your words matters. Every one of your words displays your heart. Do your words set an example for others to imitate?

Questions to Consider

  1. Who have you known who has set an example of the kind of speech the Bible commends?
  2. The biblical pattern for overcoming sin is always “put off” and then “put on” or “put to death” old patterns and habits and then “bring to life” new patterns and habits. When it comes to your speech, what are some sinful ways of speaking that you need to put off or put to death? What are some virtuous ways of speaking that you need to put on or bring to life?
  3. Consider how some of these proverbs should challenge you. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (10:19). “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life” (13:3). “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” (15:28). “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (18:13). Why don’t you ask another person to evaluate you in light of these proverbs?
  4. In what ways do you think you are setting a good example to the people of your church in the way you speak? Pray and thank God for each of them. In what ways do you think you are not setting a good example to the people of your church in the way you speak? Pray and ask God for his grace to change you.

You, Me, and the ESV
October 13, 2016

You probably heard what happened recently with the ESV, the English Standard Version of the Bible. In August, Crossway, the ministry that publishes the ESV, announced that “the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway.” In other words, the text had become permanent and would undergo no further changes for the rest of time. Controversy ensued and on September 28, Crossway reversed their decision. President and CEO Lane Dennis wrote, “We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake. We apologize for this and for any concern this has caused for readers of the ESV.” Though I’m sure there were difficult meetings and tough decisions along the way, I believe Crossway should be pleased with the outcry. Here’s why: The ESV controversy shows that the ESV is not their Bible but our Bible.

The ESV controversy was based on two related issues—the permanence of the text and the final changes made to the text. I’ll briefly fill you in on each of them.

A Permanent Text

In their original announcement, Crossway announced that the Crossway Board of Directors and the ESV Translation Oversight Committee had unanimously agreed to make the latest edition of the text permanent. They explained the decision by saying it would ensure that “people who love the ESV Bible can have full confidence in the ESV, knowing that it will continue to be published as is, without being changed, for the rest of their lives, and for generations to come.”

The ESV has changed a number of times over its life and you can always check the small print on the copyright page of your Bible to see what version you have. I have sometimes been frustrated with the reality of a changing text. I find it distracting when someone reads aloud and I find that my ESV has different wording from theirs. Also, I love the idea of purchasing an heirloom Bible, one to read day-by-day, to preach from, and to leave to my children. But every few years the text changes and, especially when teaching or preaching, I feel the need to use the most updated version. How can I ever have that kind of heirloom Bible if I need to replace it every few years?

Yet I also know there is benefit in a non-permanent text. After all, while the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts, no translation is perfect or beyond improvement. To lock in the text is to freeze it even while scholars continue to come to better understandings of words, passages, and contexts. Not only that, but it does not allow the translation to change as the English language changes—as words come into use and fall out of use. To lock it is to date it.

Changes To the Text

As Crossway announced that the ESV text had become permanent, they also announced they had made a few final changes—52 words across 29 verses. While most of these changes were minor and unremarkable, at least 2 were quite significant: Genesis 3:16 was changed from “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” to “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” while Genesis 4:7 was changed from “[Sin’s] desire is for you, but you must rule over it” to “[Sin’s] desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Many opponents and proponents of the ESV found themselves united in their discomfort with this wording, concerned that it reflected interpretation more than translation—interpretation meant to support a complementarian understanding of the text. It was, after all, a unique and controversial translation (though, to be fair, older editions of the ESV did offer it in a footnote as a viable alternate, so it was not completely foreign).

This turned out to be a double-whammy. Not only was the text now permanent, but it also included a controversial and perhaps unsuitable translation of a key text. It quickly became clear that making final changes to the text at the same time as finalizing it was unwise. It allowed no room for debate or discussion. Even worse, it looked to some like a stealthy way of promoting a particular interpretation through translation. There was an outcry and Crossway revisited, then reversed, their decision.

You, Me, and the ESV

But I don’t think this should be at all discouraging to Crossway because the controversy shows that the ESV is not their Bible but our Bible. Millions of people have adopted the ESV, have come to love it, and have deep feelings for it. We’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours reading it, pondering it, memorizing it. For many, the ESV is the Bible, the only Bible they have ever known. For others it is the Bible that led them to salvation or that led them to a theological awakening. This is especially true of people who have been part of the modern-day Reformed resurgence. In many ways and for many of us the ESV is inseparable from our newfound convictions. We don’t just use the ESV, we are deeply connected to it, deeply invested in it. The outcry was aroused by our love for the ESV and our desire to see it continue as our most trusted companion. It’s our Bible, too!

Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship
October 12, 2016

I expect we have all seen dating relationships go wrong. We have all seen people move from unwise and unhealthy dating relationships into turbulent, difficult, or even doomed marriages. How can we help people avoid this? What are some danger signs of an unhealthy dating relationship? Lou Priolo’s books have often been helpful to me and this has proven the case once more with a little booklet he’s written on this very subject. He offers a long list of danger signs, but I want to focus on just 6 of them, on the ones I’ve seen most often.

Persistent doubts about the relationship. The first warning sign is the existence of persistent doubts about the relationship. There are many reasons people may experience such doubts. Some of these may be legitimate and some may ridiculous, and the difficulty comes in knowing which is which. Priolo warns, “The Bible teaches that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you should not move forward until you are confident that what you are about to do is not sin” (see Romans 14:5, 23). We can draw from the Bible a “holding principle” that warns us not to act until we are confident that it will not be sinful to proceed. “If you can’t proceed in doing what you would like to do without having the faith (the scripturally based assurance) that you can do it to the glory of God, it’s best to wait until your conscience has been informed by the Word of God.” If you are having serious, nagging doubts about the wisdom of proceeding toward marriage, make time and effort to resolve those doubts biblically.

Subjects that are off-limits. Another warning sign of an unhealthy dating relationship is the existence of subjects that are off-limits. Are there certain subjects that your boyfriend or girlfriend refuses to discuss? Are there subjects you avoid bringing up out of fear of anger or hurt feelings? There are at least two warning signs wrapped up in such a situation: “These kinds of thought patterns may indicate an inability to biblically resolve conflicts on the part of your partner or an inordinate desire for approval on your part.” It could also be fear—fear of the other person’s emotional or even physical response. Either way, a marriage cannot thrive where a couple has subjects that remain off-limits, where relational intimacy can exist only if certain subjects never come up. Learn to talk to your future spouse about anything and everything and be concerned if subjects remain off-bounds.

Increased physical intimacy. A very serious warning sign within a dating relationship is an increase in physical intimacy—intimacy that is appropriate only within marriage. Of course the cultural expectation is that a couple will quickly ramp up the physical component of their relationship until they are sure they are sexually compatible. Only then will they be convinced that they can have a healthy marriage. But the Bible offers many and repeated warnings about sexual intimacy outside of marriage (which includes, of course, sexual intimacy prior to marriage). In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4 goes so far as to call such sexual activity “defrauding” another person, exploiting them for your own pleasure. Be concerned if your boyfriend or girlfriend ramps up the intimacy or pressures you to ramp it up. Take this lack of self-control and lack of desire for sexual purity as a warning sign and seek out help and counsel from others.

Strong opposition from family and friends. It is wise to be concerned about your relationship if it is opposed by family and trusted friends—especially Christian family and friends. The Bible often teaches the importance of seeking out and heeding wisdom from others. Their wisdom is not inerrant, but it may still be valuable. They may see things you do not. They may have the wisdom and insight you lack. “In the multitude of godly counselors there is wisdom. … If the objections are biblical (if there are valid biblical reasons to consider waiting to get married or to reconsider getting married at all), then wait until the issues are resolved before you move ahead. Let the Scriptures be your guide in all matters of faith and practice.” Ask trusted counselors about your relationship and carefully consider their concerns.

Lack of spiritual harmony. The Bible forbids Christians from marrying non-Christians, so the most important spiritual harmony comes by ensuring your future spouse is a true believer. I have spoken to many brokenhearted husbands and wives who have realized too late that they married an unbeliever. Be convinced! Another kind of spiritual disharmony is when major doctrinal differences divide spouses—issues like disagreements on the roles of husbands and wives or on the way God guides his people, whether through Scripture or through other kinds of revelation. Discuss and decide what you believe about infant baptism and about church attendance and membership. There is nothing more important to a dating relationship than communication, so take time to talk about everything. Talk, listen, and pursue harmony.

Inability to resolve conflicts. Another serious warning sign is an inability to resolve conflict. We could go so far as to say that the two essential qualities for a spouse are a shared Christian faith and an ability to resolve conflict in God’s way through God’s Word. If these are in place, everything else can follow. “The difference between a good marriage and a bad marriage is not necessarily that in the former there is little to no conflict and in the latter there is much conflict. The difference is that in a good marriage the conflicts are resolved biblically, quickly, and with a minimum amount of sin.” You will have conflicts and must learn to resolve them in a healthy manner. You also need to understand that conflict is not necessarily bad and, in fact, is often necessary to resolve issues that inevitably arise between sinful human beings. But a healthy marriage depends on a couple learning to work out their issues in a constructive way.

These are just 6 warning signs. For more, and for a workbook approach to identifying and dealing with them, consider picking up Lou Priolo’s booklet Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship.

10 Reasons I'm Thankful To Be a Dad
October 10, 2016

It does me good to consider what I am thankful for, especially since today is Thanksgiving up here in Canada. There are so many things for which I owe gratitude to God, but near the top of the list, and on my mind today, is my children. I’m thankful to be a dad for these reasons and many more:


I am thankful to be a dad for the cuddles. My sixteen-year-old son doesn’t cuddle me anymore, but my girls still do, and I love them for it. I love to hold them close, I love to tell them they are loved, I love to let them know that they are safe, protected, provided for. I cuddle them gently to know that I treasure them. I gather them in my arms and carry them up to bed to let them know I’m strong. And they cuddle me to let me know I’m loved in return. I think I might need their cuddles just as much as they need mine.


I am thankful for the eyes of a daughter for her father. There is something about the way a girl looks at her daddy, something in her eyes that is pure and sweet and deep and maybe even fierce. Her eyes show love, trust…and is it admiration? It’s not like the love of friend to friend or husband to wife or father to son. It’s not better or worse, but different, unique. It’s a love any good daddy wants to treasure.


I am thankful to be a dad because my children push me to grow in holiness. They push me to grow in holiness by exposing my lack of holiness. They don’t mean to—it just happens as we live life together. They expose my impatience, my irritability, my selfishness, my pride. I know they need a dad who doesn’t just demand holiness but who also displays it. So in their own way they’ve pushed me to grow in the noblest traits while putting to death the ugliest.


I am thankful to be a dad to feel protection toward my children. And as a father I do feel fiercely protective toward them. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect them from harm, to prevent them from experiencing pain. Sometimes I read in the news or the history books of a father who has sacrificed his life for his children. I am moved but not surprised. What father wouldn’t trade his life for his child’s? What father wouldn’t throw himself in front of a predator, bus, or bullet to protect his child?


I am thankful to be a dad so I can feel pride in my children. Yes, I know that pride is the chief of sins and that pride comes before a fall. But not this pride. This is the kind of pride God has in his Son, that God has in us, his children. It is a good pride, a pride that desires to give to those children all that they need, a pride that delights in their accomplishments no matter how big or small. This is a pride that seeks the good of the other, that delights in the good of the other. In this way I’m proud of my children, proud to be their dad.


I am thankful to be a dad to grow in humility. Yes, being a dad generates pride (good pride!) but it also generates humility. I see the good traits of my children and know: I can’t take the credit for this. I see their accomplishments and know: They are capable in ways I’m a failure. I see all that they are, all that they do, all that they have become and are becoming, and I have to be humbled, I have to give humble thanks to God for his goodness.


I am thankful to be a dad as it allows me to become a friend. One of the great joys of parenting is experiencing that slow transition through which your children become your friends. What a joy it is to realize that you aren’t only spending time with them because you have to and you aren’t spending time with them just because it’s your parental duty. No, you’re spending time with them because you just plain love them, you love to be with them. Your children have become your friends.


I am thankful to be a dad for the hope my children give. In my children I see hope—hope for the church, hope for humanity. I see children who are kind and moral and growing in godliness. I see children who have been raised in a way that stands out from the world around them. I see children who know that they need to be heavenly-minded if they are to be of any earthly good. I see my children and feel hope.


I am thankful to be a dad to appreciate beauty. What dad isn’t convinced that his daughters are the most beautiful creatures in all the earth? What dad doesn’t love to hear the question, “Daddy, how do I look?” She approaches with her dress on, she does a twirl, her hair flies, her dress puffs. “How do I look?” There is only one appropriate answer: “You look perfect. You look beautiful.” And she does.


I am thankful to be a dad so I can better appreciate the fatherhood of God. God reveals himself to us as Father—Father to the Son and Father to all those whom he adopts into his family. Being a father to my children has given me glimpses—vague and fleeting glimpses, perhaps—of what it means for God to be Father. Seeing God as Father challenges me to love like God loves, to parent like God parents. Seeing God as Father allows me to rest secure, knowing that my children have a bigger, better Father who will provide for their every need.

October 09, 2016

One of the great joys of blogging is receiving feedback from those who read what I write. Every week or two I like to collect some of the letters to the editor that I receive and share them here. What I share today represents the best of the week that was.

Letters on Jesus Always, the Sequel to Jesus Calling

Tim: These really are the best of what I received this week on the subjects of Jesus Always and Jesus Calling.

First of all, EVERYONE HAS A GIFT!! Sarah has a gift of hearing from the Lord! She brings us closer to him! I feel like all you’re doing is wanting publicity in downing someone else. How do you think GOD feels about that?! Sarah is doing what GOD told her to do and you’re against it; meaning you’re going against GODs will! He does NOT like ugly and that is everything that you are being. YOU NEED TO PRAY! Pray & figure out what GOD wants for you instead of going against what He wants for someone else. Sarah has a life to live and message to send. Ask GOD what YOUR calling is…let Sarah’s relationship with GOD be her own. Shes helping people and you’re tearing them down. Im praying for you.
—Cameron C, Knoxville, TN


Stop being a hater because nobody wants to ready your crap. Have a blessed day.
—Aven P, Cheraw, SC

Letters on No One Else Is Coming

Thank you for writing the article about 20Schemes, and specifically about the Petes in Barlanark. I wanted to add a hearty “amen” to what you have written and add another personal vouching for the lads.

Our church has supported the Petes for some time now. This past summer I had the privilege of taking a small team to Barlanark to see the ministry firsthand. It isn’t dazzling. It isn’t showy. It isn’t glamorous. We weren’t expecting that though. What we expected and saw was that it is hard, it is necessary, and it is good.

I remember being in a conversation with David Murray (of PRTS and a native Scot himself) a few years ago where he commented offhand that he thinks 20Schemes may be Scotland’s last hope. Indeed, what we personally saw in Barlanark was a people that are hopeless. But the reason why 20Schemes can be characterized as the “last hope” is because they bring the gospel of hope to the hopeless. Hope Community Church Barlanark is the perfect name to describe the church that is being planted.

I would encourage both individual Christians and churches to come alongside the work happening in Scotland. Pray, give, go, and send. The Lord of the Harvest is planting and gathering. What a privilege to be part of His work.
—Bryan W, Rothbury, MI

Letters on Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

Tim: Not surprisingly, the majority of responses to this article were opposed to what I wrote. Still, many of the responses were both kind and reasonable.

Both suggested reasons for the universe looking old have problems. “The universe looks old because the Creator made it whole” misses the fact that the universe does not merely look old, but it looks like it has a complete history. It’s reasonable to suggest that an instantly created Adam would have looked a few decades old, but Adam would not need growth rings in his bones, a navel, scars, memories, or other evidence of a nonexistent series of events. But when we look at the earth, or at the universe, we see clear evidence of a lengthy series of events. The wine at Cana resembled the product of a year’s work by a vine, but it didn’t have a fictional label crediting it to a particular vineyard or genuine bits of bugs and dirt to give the appearance of normal winemaking techniques.

Likewise, identifying looking old as due to sin is problematic on many counts. God said it was good; this says it looked bad. Although human aging as we know it is marred by sin, the idea that looking old is because of sin sounds more like a modernistic cult of youth than Biblical appreciation for maturity.

The modern young-earth interpretation is not all that traditional. Non-24 hour interpretations of the days of creation were common in the early church. By the early 1800’s, the geologic evidence for a vast age of the earth was not only firmly scientifically established but also widely accepted in the church, with young-earth positions regaining popularity only in the past half-century as a result of the popularity of the erroneous scientific claims of creation science.

Not that science should dictate our exegesis, but it may indicate places where our exegesis is off, as Augustine suggested. And we must be honest in reporting what science indicates, whether or not it fits what we want. Both theology and science must rigidly stick to the evidence, rather than “here’s how I think it should work”.
—David C, Boiling Springs, NC


It is very unfortunate that respected Christian spokesmen like John MacArthur and Albert Mohler insist on continuing to promote the totally unnecessary false choice of either the facts of nature or one particular interpretation of the Bible. It is obvious that the book of Genesis was not intended to teach science and that there are many passages in the Bible that are not intended to be taken in a rigidly literal manner. If these men were to publically allow for the possibility of other ways to interpret Genesis, Christianity might not be losing so many young people. Equating Christianity with Young Earth Creationism hasn’t saved anyone, but it has caused many to be lost. I grant that there are theological issues that need to be worked out and then disseminated, but this is being done, on the internet and in the literature. We need to get to the point where creation and evolution becomes just another one of those secondary issues on which Christians graciously agree that alternative views are possible.
—Paul B, New Kensington, PA


I see the lens of the creation camera as on the earth and focused on the earth and viewing the heavens from an earthly perspective. The universe declares the glory of God, but earth is the stage of God’s creative, providential and redemptive work in and for man. The Cosmos manifests the divine grandeur but does so in a way that is anthropocentric. This is illustrated by the greater and lesser lights being created for the benefit of man on the earth. Then God made the stars also. Given the anthropocentric nature of the universe this statement cannot really mean anything unless these stars were immediately visible with the radiated light created with them reaching earth at the very moment of their creation. We are, each of us, behind the lens as the drama unfolds. The camera sees each stage as it unfolds from the perspective of the stage. The stars are the backdrop to the stage, the universe the theatre. we watch and observe the immediacy of each unfolding act of God’s unveiling of Himself in the His creation. We see it’s all immediately as Adam would had He been created first.
—Donald M, Glasgow, Scotland

Letters on Those Exquisite Forms of Love That Do Not Speak Your Language

First, I want to say that I agree with much of what you say here. And obviously, the Bible offers so much more than the love languages concept. However, I think you are perhaps a bit too cynical about the benefits of understanding love languages. I don’t think it has to be this dark and greedy thing that you paint it to be.

I don’t think most people learn about love languages for their own benefit. I don’t think everyone is reading about love languages to hold over their spouse’s head, “see, this is my love languages and you aren’t meeting that.”

Instead, there are 2 very beneficial things that we can learn:

  1. My spouse’s love language. In learning about love languages, I can choose to learn how I can best love him. I think that is why most people learn about love languages—to love their spouse better, and not in a selfish way. It’s important that we understand how our spouse’s love language differs from our own because our nature is to do what we understand. For example, if my love language is affection, I might be very affectionate toward my spouse. Not that it’s a bad thing, but if his love language is acts of service then I need to do that too. Why? Because I want him to feel loved, so I want to learn about what makes him most feel loved.
  2. The second reason is somewhat related to the first. If I learn about my husband’s love language, then I can better appreciate the ways that he shows me love, even if they aren’t necessarily speaking my love language. You mention the dark and greedy growl and making your own love language the ultimate and only acceptable expression of love. I would disagree here. I think we are naturally prone to do that, without anyone telling us to. I think learning about love languages helps us do the opposite because instead of saying, “hey you aren’t showing me affection, so you don’t love me.” I can step back and look at the ways he is showing me love through his own love language and learn to better appreciate those things.

I think we should all look for the ways our spouses show us love anyway, but I do think that learning about love languages can assist with that and doesn’t have to be the negative thing that you ascribe to it.
—Crystal B, Marion, KY

Can We Enjoy Heaven Knowing Loved Ones Are in Hell
October 08, 2016

Heaven is far too perfect, far too sinless, far too other for us to imagine in our fallen minds. Our attempts to put brush to canvas have led to depictions of cherubs on clouds, idyllic colors of dawn, Christ as a blinding light, a faceless adoring throng. Some of these attempts to capture heaven’s splendors are beautiful and even captivating, yet we know they are also incomplete. They are, at best, the barest reflection of what awaits. Our imaginations must always fall short of heaven’s glorious perfections.

Revelation 21:4 assures us that in heaven God himself will wipe away our tears, that there will be no death, no sorrow, no crying, and no pain. There is a deeply comforting certainty in our future—a certainty of joy, bliss, comfort, peace, love, and perfection. However, those of us with non-believing family members and friends can find this certainty an area of intense struggle. Why? Because we know that not everyone will be there with us. Many we love today will have an eternal experience of pain, torment, and separation. How could we ever enjoy heaven if our loved ones are in hell? R.C. Sproul tackled this question at a Ligonier Ministries conference years ago and I appreciate his answer.

Sproul begins by recounting a humorous moment from his seminary days. After attending an event in which a speaker unabashedly tore away at Reformed doctrine, young Sproul, disturbed by what he heard, quipped to his professor, “If John Calvin would have heard that sermon, he would have turned over in his grave.” His professor gravely responded, “Young man, don’t you know that nothing can disturb the felicity John Calvin is experiencing right now?”

He reflected little on their interaction, but shortly after heard that same professor’s answer to how a Christian can enjoy heaven knowing of loved ones in hell: “You will be so sanctified that you will be able to see your own mother in hell and rejoice knowing that God’s perfect justice is being carried out.” Sproul’s knee-jerk reaction was to scoff, even laugh, at the lunacy of such a statement.

At face value his professor’s answer felt wrong, insensitive even. However, if we can be certain that our future in heaven is one of undisturbed joy and that at the sight of God’s perfect justice our hearts will cry in adoration, nothing, not even the just fate of the unsaved friend or family member, will disturb our gladness.

Why, then, does our knee-jerk reaction match Sproul’s on this side of eternity? Sproul provides three answers:

We do not know God. That is, we do not really know God. We do not know him as he actually is. We especially don’t know him as the God who is holy, holy, holy. In fact, we are often even offended by his holiness, as if it is an ignoble or capricious trait. We cannot imagine how we could be content in heaven while loved ones are in hell because our knowledge of God is too small.

We do not know ourselves. We do not know God as we ought but we also don’t know ourselves as we ought. Try as we might, we remain oblivious to how truly heinous our sin is, how truly filthy we are in the sight of God, and how incredible our salvation is. It is so human for us to sin that we may even feel as if God is somehow obligated to forgive us. We need better self-knowledge—the kind God gives by his Spirit through his Word. We cannot imagine how we could be content in heaven while loved ones are in hell because we do not know ourselves as well as we ought.

We do not know what glorification means. The last link of the Golden Chain of Romans 8:28-30 is glorification. Though we tend to focus most on predestination and justification, they are simply the means to that great end of glorification. We ought to long for the day when we are glorified, when we and everything else is purified of all traces of sin. Heaven is so much more than the absence of death and deterioration—it is also the absence of sin. Can you imagine a place where there is no sin? Do you look forward to a place of no sin? That is our hope! We cannot imagine how we could be content in heaven while loved ones are in hell because we think too little of the beauty of glorification.

Until we are glorified, our sympathies will rest more easily with human beings than with God—his glory and perfect justice. But as Sproul explains in his talk, “once sin is removed from my life… and I love the Lord my God with all of my heart and all of my soul in undiluted perfection, my compassion, my love, my concern will be much more for the vindication of God’s holiness than for a corrupt fallen kinsmen of mine.” And so we pray for the lost, we share the gospel with them, we plead for their souls. And all the while we trust in the God who is good and who does only what is good.

Daddy How Do I Look
October 07, 2016

Daddy, how do I look?”

Eyes sparkling. Cheeks glowing. Is that a touch of makeup, a little something to accentuate the green of her eyes? Since when has she been wearing makeup? She twirls daintily on silver shoes, hair streaming, dress floating.

“Daddy, how do I look?”

She looks thirteen or twenty-three. She’s so big and so tiny, so old and so young, so wise and so innocent. When did she grow up? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was born, this morning that she took her first steps, this afternoon that she learned her ABCs? How can she already be graduating to high school? What happened to all the years, all the days, all the moments? I thought they would go by so much slower. I wish I had known.

“Daddy, how do I look?”

I’d die for her. Does she know that? Does it even matter? I’d throw myself in front of a bus for her. I’d take a bullet. I’d do anything to keep her safe, to protect her from harm. I’m her daddy and it’s my duty. I’m her daddy and it’s my joy to love her fiercely, to love her gently, to love her without any contradiction between the two. I do. In that moment I do.

“Daddy, how do I look?”

This world is too dark for the likes of her. She’s too sweet, too tiny, too good, too pure. How will she make her way? How will she survive? How will she navigate the mess we’ve made here. God, protect her. God, keep her. She’s yours anyway, right? She’s mine for a day and yours for eternity. Bless her. Remember her. Don’t forget about her. Don’t neglect her. Please.

“Daddy, how do I look?”

A tear, a smile: “You look perfect.”

No One Else Is Coming
October 06, 2016

Sometimes it’s the little lines that get you, the parentheticals, the throw-aways. I heard one a few days ago: “No one else is coming.” It’s what you say when you realize that a responsibility has now fallen to you. You were hoping and waiting for backup, for reinforcements, for someone—anyone—else. But then you realize: No one else is coming. So you roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Earlier this week I was in Barlanark, a grey and gritty neighborhood in Glasgow. Barlanark is properly a scheme, one of nearly 100 dotting Scotland’s most populated city. What’s a scheme, you ask? A scheme is a social housing development, a place where most of the homes are owned by the government and distributed to the poor. It’s a place bearing all the marks of hard poverty—shattered families, absentee fathers, deep addictions, and a near-complete absence of the gospel. Thousands of people live in the homes and apartments of Barlanark. Only the smallest majority, maybe one half of one percent, know Jesus.

I was there to visit the Petes. A number of years ago, a local lad named Pete came to Barlanark to begin an outreach to the youth. He soon hired a second Pete and for a number of years they collaborated in building relationships with the youth, telling them about Jesus. They grew to have a real love for the people of that community. Though the work was slow and grueling, though it took its toll on them and their families, they saw some measure of success, they saw God’s hand of blessing.

The Petes

But the Petes came to understand there was a limitation on that work. If they were going to reach Barlanark—to really reach it with the gospel, to see the gospel take root, to see lives transformed—there needed to be a church there. It couldn’t be a church near the scheme or around the scheme. It had to be a church in the scheme—a Barlanark church for Barlanark people. They worked, waited, prayed, and hoped. They waited for a church planter to develop a heart for their neighborhood, to come with a calling, a mandate, a core team. But after a while they had to face it: “We realized, no one else is coming.”

And in that way they were called—called to the work of planting a church in one of Scotland’s most impoverished neighborhoods. The church will open soon—Easter perhaps, or early summer. It will be called Hope Community Church Barlanark and it will be that Barlanark church for Barlanark people. Already they’ve found office space in the very heart of the scheme, within the community center, if you can believe it. They hold prayer meetings there every morning, they host groups for moms and tots, they invite people to study the Bible, they tell people about Jesus. There has been a response—a small but real response. Some have heard the gospel and believed. Some have heard the gospel and begun to listen, to consider its claims. The work is slow, but it’s real. It’s happening. God is moving.

The Petes have found help in their work. An organization called 20schemes has come alongside them to provide care, mentoring, resources, oversight. 20schemes has a vision to see the gospel impact Scotland’s schemes and they are now working with the Petes and their growing core team to see them form a church. That church can use support, and especially the kind of support that comes when an established church partners with a new one—prayer, finance, and mission teams. If you’re interested in helping the gospel reach Scotland’s poorest people, why don’t you get in touch with 20schemes? Why don’t you join a vision trip, visit Barlanark, and see what the Lord is doing?

God gave the Petes a desire to care for the kids of Barlanark. That desire grew into a love for those kids, for their families, for their neighborhoods. That love grew into a calling—a calling to plant and pastor a church right there in that scheme. I wonder if God would give you a burden to support them or even to join them in their work. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s calling someone like you to yet another of the hundreds of schemes that don’t have any gospel witness. Because at this point, no one else is coming.

This video is a couple of years old so a wee bit outdated, but it introduces the Petes, their work, and their accents: