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January 09, 2007

This is the second article in a three-part series examining the Bible’s call for spiritual discernment. You can access the first article here. Today we will see three marks of a lack of discernment.

Lack of discernment shows spiritual immaturity

In the closing verses of Hebrews 5, the author of this great letter warns his readers against apostasy, against straying from the faith.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

The author of Hebrews has much he would like to tell the recipients of this letter. There is much knowledge he would like to impart to them, so many important things they need to learn. Unfortunately, what he wishes to communicate to them is “hard to explain,” not because it is obscure or difficult to understand, but because the people have become “dull of hearing.” They are not stupid people and are not intellectually inferior, unable to grasp such truths. The reason he cannot relay these important truths is not because of what these people are by nature, but of what they have become. There is much the author would like to say but he cannot and will not because of the spiritual immaturity of the people to whom he writes. They lack understanding, and lack discernment.

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews are not new Christians or recent converts, for the author says that by this time they ought to be teachers. This is not to say that they all ought to be ministers or preachers, but that they should all be sufficiently mature that they are able to understand and to teach others the basics of the faith. Sadly, though, they still have not understood the basics themselves. They do not have the childlike faith Jesus so values, but a childish, immature faith. In this way they are like so many Christians since them. Richard Phillips writes:

The recipients of this letter were like many Christians today who think that theology is a waste of time. What difference does it make, people ask, whether God is a Trinity or not, whether Christ’s righteousness comes by imputation or infusion, and whether regeneration comes before faith or after? What is important, they say, is that we get along with each other. Then they cite passages commending a childlike faith, as if that were the same thing as a childish faith, that is, one that is indifferent to or ignorant of the Word of God .

We live in an age where too many who profess to be Christians rarely consider their spiritual maturity; an age when many consider spiritual immaturity a mark of authenticity. Far too many people consider sound theology the mark of a person who is argumentative and proud. Far too many people are just like the audience to whom Hebrews is addressed. This letter draws a clear line connecting a lack of discernment with spiritual immaturity so that those who lack discernment are those who are spiritually immature. Scripture makes it plain: if you are not a person who exhibits and exercises discernment you are not a mature Christian.

My wife and I have been blessed with three children and often marvel that they have survived through infancy for we have seen them put the most horrible and nauseating things in their mouths (things that are far too horrible to print!). Children have no understanding of what is good for them and will sample anything. Their mouths are constantly wide open, eager to taste and to eat anything that looks good to their untrained eyes. It is only with maturity that children learn what is truly good for them and what is not. Only with maturity will children learn that what looks good may not truly be good. Children need to learn to differentiate between what will hurt them and what will make them healthy. Eventually they learn to discriminate; they learn to discern. In the same way, mature Christians have learned to differentiate between what is pleasing to God and what is not, between what is consistent with Scripture and what is not. The Bible places great emphasis on spiritual maturity because, like children, immature believers are prone to sample anything. They are attracted to what looks good to their untrained eyes. Only as they grow in maturity are they able to differentiate between what pleases God and what does not. Because of this there can be no growth without discernment.

My wife and I have learned something else about children: children hate to be called children. Babies hate to be called babies. Nobody likes to be known as immature or childish, even those who clearly are. Every little boy wants to be a big boy. Every little girl wants to be a woman. God has somehow built into us a desire to mature. Every person wants to feel mature and grown up. When the author of Hebrews describes his readers as children he is not paying them a compliment and he knows that they will be insulted. He hopes to show them their desperate condition and to impress upon them how serious a state they are in. God demands and expects maturity for maturity is inseparable from discernment. A Christian cannot have one without the other.

Lack of discernment leads to backsliding

A lack of discernment points to spiritual immaturity, but this is not all. Those who are not discerning may also be those who are backsliding, whose faith is diminishing rather than increasing. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12-13). While the subjects of this letter should have been growing in their faith, progressing from milk to solid food, they were instead moving backwards, returning to baby food.

As they grow and mature, children begin to be able to eat and digest solid food. Most children are weaned quickly and encouraged to enjoy food more substantial than mere milk. Even while they are still tiny, children long for substantial food. It is good and natural that they desire that which will sustain them more than milk. We would not consider a child healthy who, at six years of age, still drinks only milk for that child would be weak and sickly. The same is true in the spiritual realm. A person should pass quickly from spiritual milk to solid foods, from the basics to what is more advanced. A person should hunger to quickly learn and understand what is elementary and should soon long after what is more advanced. This is a sign of maturity and the mark of one who has truly been saved. On the other hand, a person who regresses from solid food to milk is a person who is desperately unhealthy and who will soon wither away and perish.

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were regressing rather than progressing in their faith. There was a time when they would have been able to hear what the author would so badly like to share with them. Sadly, they are no longer at such a place. Their lack of discernment has caused them to lose ground. They are moving backwards rather than forwards. They are backslidden.

Solid food is a long way off from these people for “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Until these people learn to practice discernment and to do so constantly, they will not be able to handle solid food. Until they practice discernment and learn to distinguish between what is good and what is evil they will continue backsliding. Thus a lack of discernment is not only a mark of spiritual immaturity, but also a mark of those who are backsliding.

Lack of discernment leads to spiritual death

Those who have professed faith in Christ cannot backslide indefinitely. Sooner or later it will become clear that they are not believers at all and surely never were. The Bible does not tell us if the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews continued to fall away or if God graciously used this letter to draw them back to Him. But Scripture tells us elsewhere what happens to those who harden their hearts again God, rejecting His good gifts. Romans 1:28-32 is a damning indictment of the unregenerate human heart. It shows with terrifying clarity the evil of which humans are capable. These verses make plain the extent of the sinfulness of those who have rejected the true God in favor of false gods of their own making.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

These verses ought to strike terror in the heart of all who forsake God and ought to cause us all to pause and acknowledge the depth of the evil that inhabits the hearts of men. As men turn from God, He gives them up to do those things their hearts, filled with evil, cry out to do: envy, murder, hatred, gossip, boasting and all manner of evil. And in the midst of this list is one word that seems almost unexpected. God gives people up to foolishness. Most Bible translations translate this word as “without understanding.” One, the New King James Version, translates it as “undiscerning.” Regardless of how it is rendered in English, this word points to a type of moral foolishness that should not be present in the life of one who considers himself a Christian. It points not only to the sinfulness of a lack of discernment, but to the inevitable conclusion that a lack of discernment, utter foolishness, is a mark of one who is spiritually dead and bankrupt. A complete lack of discernment or lack of concern for the discipline of discernment is a mark of spiritual death. It is categorized with sins that somehow seem far more serious. That a lack of discernment appears in this list seems shocking, but shows just how much God values discernment. An absolute lack of discernment and a lack of concern for discernment is sure proof of spiritual death.

We see also in 1 Corinthians 2:14 the dire consequences of ignoring discernment. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are unsaved, who do not have the Spirit of God within them, are unable to be discerning. The ways of God and the truths of God are utter foolishness to such people.

To lack discernment is to sin against God. It is an inevitable result of turning from Him. It is easy to look at those who have turned from God and look at their lustful and angry hearts and affirm that this is the result of their sin. When a Christian falls into moral sin he may well examine his life to determine how he has turned his back on God, but is the same true when he exhibits a lack of discernment? A wise pastor writes, “to willingly neglect the truth and to live with our eyes closed shut while good and evil stare us in the face is to sin against God, ourselves, our families, and our church. … Again, this is worth stating over and over again. It is the responsibility of every Christian to learn, to be discipled in the Word, so that we can know how to be discerning. To fail to discern is to walk in darkness. “

This is the bad news. Scripture portrays those who lack spiritual discernment in three ways: They are spiritually immature, they are backslidden, and they are dead. Those who lack discernment will fit into one of these three categories. These are the dangers of ignoring discernment.

But there is good news, too. The Bible declares that there are many benefits stored up for those who desire discernment, who seek after it and who practice it.

January 08, 2007
“You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:6-9)

The cry of Solomon resounds in my heart. It is a cry born of deep humility and a profound sense of dependence upon God. “I am but a little child,” he cries, “I do not know how to go out or come in.” Ascending to the throne of his father, the great King David, Solomon must have realized his frailty, his inadequacy. Though he was already a grown man when he became king, Solomon considered himself a little child dependent on a Father’s wisdom.

In the book of 1 Kings we learn that, while Solomon was at Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord, God appeared to him in a dream and said simply, “Ask what I shall give you.” We are commonly taught that Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom and that God, being pleased with this request, instantaneously blessed him with a great outpouring of this gift. But in Solomon’s words we see that he requests more than wisdom: he requests discernment. His specific request is this: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9a). God reiterates and answers this request, saying to Solomon, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right behold, I now do according to your word” (1 Kings 3:11-12a). And here is what God gave Solomon: “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12b).

Commenting on verse 9, Hebrews scholars Keil and Delitzsch point out that the “understanding mind” Solomon requested was actually a “hearing heart” or a “listening heart”-“a heart giving heed to the law and right of God.” Solomon was given wisdom, to be sure. But he was also given a hearing heart. He was given discernment such as no mere human has possessed before or since. We might even say that Solomon requested discernment, but because of the connectedness of wisdom and discernment, God gave him both what he requested and its important prerequisite. Solomon became both wise and discerning.

We can read Solomon’s Psalm, written after the events of this night, a Psalm in which he asks God’s assistance in applying wisdom:

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!

May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!

Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor! (Psalm 72:1-4)

Unlike Solomon, I have not been called by God to govern a nation. But even in the humble ways God has called me to lead, I feel the desire of Solomon. Even when I look at my family and think of how I must lead my wife and teach my children I feel like a little child, uncertain of what to do and how to act. So often I have called out to God for wisdom and for discernment. So often I have sought to be like Solomon. So often I have wanted to know that God is pleased with my requests.

God honored Solomon’s request because He was pleased with what Solomon had asked. This teaches us that God values discernment and honors those who seek after it. In this short series we will see the importance the Bible places on discernment by showing both the blessings that accompany discernment and the curses that accompany a lack of discernment.

Tomorrow we will look at three marks of a lack of discernment, and on Wednesday we’ll look at the benefits stored up for those who desire discernment, who seek after it and who practice it.

January 06, 2007

The Outdoor BibleThe Outdoor Bible is the flagship product for Bardin & Marsee Publishing, a small publishing company based in Canton, GA. Available in the New Testament and in the New American Standard Bible translation, this Bible’s claim to fame is that it is designed for the great outdoors. Made to be used by the outdoorsman, the Bible is printed on durable, tear-resistant plastic material, making it fully waterproof and able to withstand the rigors of the hiking, camping and other activities. It comes packaged in a small burlap bag, a digitized camouflage bag or a God’s country camouflage bag (which is camouflage but with a picture of a cross on it). The product includes six volumes, each of which is folded like a map on 10” x 13” sheets and contains one or more books of the Bible (Volume 1 - Matthew and Mark, Volume 2 - Luke, Volume 3 - John, Volume 4 - Acts and Romans, Volume 5 - 1 Corinthians thru Philemon, Volume 6 - Hebrews thru Revelation).

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is printed on 100% plastic material, which makes it a fully waterproof Bible. It can be rained on, snowed on, or fully submerged in a body of water – with no damage.

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is made to withstand the rigors of the outdoors – whether used on a backcountry trail, a boating trip, or at a park with your family – THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will endure your chosen adventure.

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will maintain its form during everyday handling and is resistant to typical outdoor wear and tear.

The Bible can be submerged in water or even frozen without adversely affecting it. Because it is plastic and waterproof, the Bible has a possible application for those who do not spend a great deal of time in the outdoors. It can be flattened and pressed against the wall of a shower where it should stick and make for good reading in the shower.

I quite like this piece of ChurchMerch. It fills a niche and does so in style and with a solid translation of the Bible. It is a great product to consider for the outdoorsman in your life. The only real drawback I can think of it is that the type is quite small and would be difficult to read in low-light situations. Beyond that small complaint, I consider it a fine product.

You can read more about it, watch a video or buy it at theoutdoorbible.com. It is also available from sellers associated with Amazon.

January 05, 2007

This was just posted on Dr. Mohler’s blog:

Dr. Mohler’s health has sustained a setback. Over the past 36 hours Dr. Mohler has suffered from unrelenting pain. This unusual degree of pain signaled concern for the attending physicians and prompted additional tests this afternoon. In the past hour these tests have revealed that Dr. Mohler is suffering from pulmonary emboli in both lungs. His condition is quite serious and he has been moved to the intensive care unit of Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, KY for immediate treatment.

Please make this a matter of urgent prayer. Thank you once again for your concern and support during these days.

Background information is here and here.

January 03, 2007

This is an oldie but a goodie. I looked all over and couldn’t find an authoritative account of where it came from and neither could I track down an “official” file. I suspect it is fairly old as from the sound quality it seems likely that it was taken from a cassette. Because it was already uploaded on several servers I went ahead and uploaded it to mine as well. If anyone can point me to an official or copyrighted version, I’ll gladly link to that one instead of this one!

In the meantime, I give you a sermon on “hairology,” the theology of hair. Dr. G.I. Barber delivers what is an exceptional sermon (and fairly short one, thankfully) on what the Bible has to say about hair.

January 03, 2007

A Letter to The Learning Channel

To Whom It May Concern,

I write today to offer your television network the rights to what I am convinced will soon be the most popular reality show on television. Reality television has offered the discerning viewer much entertainment and so many opportunities to learn. We have learned how to dress, how to cook, how to build motorcycles and hotrods and even how to build beautiful rooms using plywood, staple guns and glue guns. We’ve seen what it takes to make it as an executive for the world’s leading corporations. We’ve seen the inner-workings of families of dwarfs and families of rock stars and have marveled at the skill of tattoo artists. But there is one area that has received shockingly little attention. I offer exclusive rights to an exciting new program to The Learning Channel.

I offer you Reformed Eye for the Arminian Guy, a new production currently filming pilot episodes in New York City. This exciting new program will offer theological assistance to those men who need it most. In each episode a fabulous team of Reformed men will track down an Arminian guy and offer him the makeover of a lifetime. Each of the five team members is an expert in a different field. Each will assist the subject of the program in a unique way.

Klaus is the library expert. He will examine the person’s personal book collection, weeding out any books that are deemed unworthy of a Reformed library. Graham, Yancey, McLaren and Lucado will be replaced by Edwards, Spurgeon, Calvin and Luther. Paperbacks and fancy hardcovers will be replaced by handsome leather-bound volumes, leaving a library that is both beautiful and theologically-correct. The subject will be provided with a library of commentaries, Reformed confessions, and a full collection of the writings of John Calvin.

Jonathan serves on the team as personal stylist. He will ensure that the subject of the show looks Reformed. The subject will be provided with a new wardrobe, complete with several handsome suits and a variety of sweater vests. He will be encouraged to wear a tie or other formal apparel at all times. He will learn the importance of always carrying pocket-sized Bibles and copies of Reformed confessions. And, of course, he will learn of the unsuitability of t-shirts, track pants and idolatrous accessories such as crosses. Tattoo removal will be offered to those who need it.

Marcus is the team’s theologian. His task is to help the subject understand the tenets of the Reformed faith. Marcus will offer an intensive, day-long overview of Reformed theology, beginning in the Old Testament, continuing to the New and then passing through the lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. From there the course will survey the teachings of the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and move to more modern times with Warfield, Hodge, Murray and the leading Reformed teachers of our day. The subject will be trained to refute the common objections to Calvinism and to uphold the principles of TULIP.

Charles is a renowned expert in Reformed decorum. He will help the subject learn to act Reformed. He will offer training humility, wonder, awe and spite. He will be told how to hold himself in times of public discourse and evangelism.

Bruce will assist the subject in his friendships and church affiliation, ensuring the subject heeds the admonition of Proverbs 25:19 that “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.” Bruce will interview the subject’s friends, deciding which of these friendships is worth pursuing and which must be abandoned. He will also seek out an appropriate church for the subject to attend.

After his makeover, the subject will be revealed to his family and remaining friends in a brief but meaningful ceremony.

Once this program has proven successful, we hope to expand the franchise to include a variety of similar programs built around similar themes: Protestant Eye for the Catholic Guy is currently under development and this will be followed by Cessationist Eye for the Charismatic Guy and Complementarian Eye for the Egalitarian Guy. Because of the theological difficulties inherent in women’s issues, we do not anticipate expanding the franchise to women.

I am sure you are as excited about this program as I am. I look forward to hearing from you very soon and eagerly anticipate working with you to add Reformed Eye for the Arminian Guy to TLC’s Fall lineup.

Yours respectfully,

Tim Challies
Producer, Reformed Eye for the Arminian Guy

January 03, 2007

The 2007 conference season is fast approaching. If you are looking for just one conference to attend this year, you probably will not do any better than the Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando, Florida. Contending for the Truth will be held from March 15-17 and will feature addresses by John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias and, of course, R.C. Sproul.

It is easy, when looking at conferences, to just skip over the name or theme. But I think with this one it is worth pondering the words “Contending for the Truth.” Words like “sin” and “evil” have already fallen out of favor in our culture. “Truth” is sure to follow. Yet we, as Christians, cannot downplay or minimize truth. We must stand for it and must contend for it. This conference will equip us to do just that. I will be there to provide liveblogging and am anticipating a time of spiritual challenge and growth.

The national conference, held annually in Orlando, Fla., is the largest conference Ligonier hosts. Dr. Sproul highlights the gathering as he, along with other prominent pastors and theologians, speaks on issues pertinent to the health of the modern church.

In Orlando, Fla., on March 15-17, 2007, Ligonier Ministries will celebrate twenty years of national conferences with a seminar focused on defending the faith. Contending for the Truth will equip believers to answer the false claims of postmodernism, naturalism, and our culture’s other atheistic theories.

Joining us are outstanding apologists and preachers - John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Ravi Zacharias. We will devote ourselves to refuting the claims made against the biblical worldview and to arming believers for the cogent presentation of orthodox Christianity.

Past speakers have included John MacArthur, Ravi Zacharias, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Joni Eareckson Tada, and many others on such topics as the role of church in the world, spiritual growth, and the character of God. This is the conference that arms clergy and laity alike with the materials and sound teaching needed for them to be better witnesses for Christ in today’s world.

Registration for this conference has already exceeding 2500 and is well on its way to the capacity of somewhere around 5000.

I am giving away four registration certificates for the conference. Each one is a $188 value and includes conference registration and all meals (dinner on Thursday; breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday; breakfast on Saturday). Anyone is invited to enter the giveaway, but please only enter if you will be able to attend (and that means you personally. Please do not enter on behalf of another person)! If you would like to attend the conference with your spouse you can enter to win two admissions. In this case you will still have only one entry, but it will be for two admissions so you can both attend for free.

To enter the giveaway, simply visit this page and in the form provided, enter your name, email address and the answer to the following question:

What is the title of the first book published by Reformation Trust Publishing?

I will stop accepting entries on January 5 at 9 AM EST and will randomly select four winners at that time.

January 01, 2007

Now that I’ve hit thirty years of age it seems more silly than ever to create all kinds of New Year’s resolutions. After all, what would I resolve to do other than what I’ve resolved to do every other year in recent memory: spend more time reading the Bible, more time praying, more time with my family and, of course, shed a few pounds by dedicating more time to exercise. And yet there is something valuable about resolutions, I think. At the very least it is useful to reflect on the past that we might think more deliberately about the present and the future. In a biography of Roger Nicole I read some godly wisdom on the importance of musing about the past:

There is a biblical injunction about musing: Deuteronomy 8:2 - “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way…” More than fifty times in Scripture, we are challenged to remember, perhaps supremely in the Lord’s Supper: “in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). Thus our knowledge of the past must serve us in our decisions in the present. Our experience in the past is an important element in our preparation for the future. It should help us to avoid repeating the mistakes that we made previously. Memory is the bond that unifies the series of experiences and decisions that constitute our life.

If resolutions are made on the basis of memory and the basis of truly wanting to serve and honor God, I am sure that they can be valuable, even if they do not last a full twelve months.

A couple of years ago, as I reflected on the dawning of a new year, I came across Psalm 90, a prayer of Moses, the man of God. It may perhaps be a strange choice to begin a new year and some would even consider it a depressing Psalm that speaks of the brevity of life and the inevitability of death. Yet primarily it speaks of the power of God, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the same now as He was two thousand years ago when His Son was on the earth and He is the same now as He was the day He brought forth the world by His word.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

I spent a part of yesterday wondering what Bible verse would serve as an appropriate reflection to begin yet another year. And then I was treated to a wonderful sermon by my friend Julian who preached at our church yesterday. His text was Matthew 6:19-24:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

These three sayings of Jesus provided an excellent basis for meditation. Any goals I set for the new year must involve laying up treasures not here, but in heaven. They must involve serving my heavenly master and not any earthly one. And they must involve looking towards that master and heavenly treasures rather than looking towards and dreaming of earthly treasures and earthly masters. Surely such resolutions cannot go far wrong.

I wish you and your family a blessed new year. May 2007 bring you many rich blessings as you seek to honor and serve the Lord. Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

December 31, 2006

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every week (in reality it actually tends to be every second week) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my left sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

This week’s recipient of the award is titus2talk, a fairly new blog, having made its first appearance in September of this year, and one that originates on the other side of the Atlantic. Though the blog is young, the contributors have already invested a good deal of effort in it and are crafting a site that will surely make a unique contribution to the Christian blogosphere. The site is targeted specifically at women, but there is no reason a guy can’t browse it every now and again as well.

“Maybe you’re wondering what our titus2talk blog is all about? Titus 2:3-5 [‘Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.’] provides us with some of the things which we, as women aspire to and seek to encourage all women to. Whether you are younger or older, single or married, busy at home or in the workplace, we invite you to share with us as we look to discover and recover God’s identity for us as women. So join us as we enter into discussion on biblical womanhood & other fun stuff. View our posts, consider the books we like, read our reviews, listen in on sermons and talks we’ve found helpful, & enjoy!”

In the coming days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over the site and look around.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so. Thanks to those of you who nominated this week’s honoree.

December 30, 2006

“Saddam Hussein, among the world’s most brutal dictators, struggled briefly after American military guards handed him over to Iraqi executioners. But as his final moments approached, he grew calm. Dressed in a black coat and trousers, he clutched a Qur’an as he was led to the gallows, and in one final moment of defiance, refused to have a hood pulled over his head.

After a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran, Saddam was executed before sunrise Saturday.” (link)

I sat almost transfixed last night, waiting for the news to be released—news that Saddam Hussein had finally been executed. I was struck by the thought that it is easy to see men like Hussein as somehow more than human. Or maybe less than human. It is interesting to watch the video footage taken shortly after his capture by U.S. forces. A doctor is poking and prodding him, peering into his mouth and looking through his hair. His beard is long and untrimmed, his hair wild and askew. And then there is the footage of him being led to the gallows (footage that is available at any major news web site). It is easy to feel a bit of sympathy watching another human being forced to his death. Suddenly this tyrant appears so human, so frail.

It is difficult to know how to react to something like this. How is a Christian to react to the death of a man such as Hussein? As I thought about this, it seems that we have cause both to mourn and to rejoice.

We can rejoice in the fact that justice has been done. Hussein’s atrocities are horrendous (you can read a list of them here) and impacted countless millions. He made a mockery of the position of power he was given. The Bible tells us that it is God who assigns leaders to the nations and Hussein violated the position of authority, using it to enrich himself, to enslave others, and to reign with brutal terror. The moniker “the Butcher of Baghdad” was well-earned.

We can also rejoice in mercy. It is in mercy that God has given the power of the sword to governments so they can act in restraining evil. These governments are charged with punishing those who do wrong so they can restrain further acts of sin and violence and so they can bring to justice those who have forsaken the laws of God seen dimly in the laws of the lands.’

We can rejoice in God’s goodness. It was God’s goodness that allowed a new government to take the place of Hussein’s and to bring an end to his reign of terror. And it was justice that caused them to end his life. God’s justice is never in conflict with His goodness. Tozer says, “To think of God as we sometimes think of a court where a kindly judge, compelled by law, sentences a man to death with tears and apologies, is to think in a manner wholly unworthy of the true God. God is never at cross-purposes with Himself. No attribute of God in in conflict with another.” To rejoice in the death of Saddam Hussein, to rejoice in the execution of justice, is to rejoice in the justice of God, the goodness of God and the mercy of God. When the Iraqi authorities, having weighed the evidence and proven that Hussein was guilty of crimes deserving death, brought an end to Hussein’s life, they imitated God in these attributes (though they surely had no idea they were doing so).

And so we can rejoice in the execution of this tyrant. We can rejoice that justice has been done. At the same time, we must not rejoice wrongly. We must take no wrongful pleasure in the death of another person. Death is an unnatural state for humans and one that should always remind us of our state of fallenness. Were it not for our sin there would be no death. And always we must remember that the sin that filled Hussein is the same sin which lives within all of us. Were it not for the restraining hand of God, were it not for His grace, any of us could commit acts equally horrific.

We must never make light of the fact that Hussein is, in all likelihood, in hell now. And, as difficult as this may be to believe, all the pain and torture and devastation Hussein caused in his life, either directly or indirectly, is as nothing compared to what he is experiencing now and what he will experience for all of eternity. We must never, ever make light of hell as the eternal destination of any man.

Hussein’s death is a testament to the depravity of humans, but it is also a testament to the justice, mercy and goodness of God. It is a time to mourn at the state of mankind, but also to marvel at the power and sovereignty of God.