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Writing Tips
September 01, 2015

I love to write, I write often, and I share my writing publicly. For those reasons I am often asked to share tips. How can I write more? How can I write better? More than once I have compiled tips on writing, and several times I have recommended books and resources on the craft. But today I want to offer a handful of new tips that are a little bit different from the kind I have offered before.

In the past, I have focused on the craft and practice of writing. Those are important elements. But today I want to consider a different aspect of writing: the context and the tools.

Select Good Tools

Most people do their writing in Microsoft Word because, well, that’s what you do, right? Word does a thousand things, and it does some of them well. But, honestly, it isn’t a great tool for writing books or articles. It has too many options, too many buttons, too many abilities. Apple’s Pages isn’t a whole lot better.

The best tools are the ones designed specifically for writing, for getting words out of your mind and onto a screen. In recent years we’ve been given a whole collection of such minimalist tools, apps that do one thing and do it very well. My current favorite is Ulysses, though there are many alternatives. (See Byword, iA Writer, or even Scrivener.) Most of these tools eschew all the fancy formatting options for the ultra-simple Markdown, an easy and seamless way of adding bold, italics, and other elements. They reduce as much friction as possible so you can simply sit and type. And really, isn’t that what this is all about?

Make It Beautiful

There’s more to words than mere words. Words on a screen take form. They take shape. They take the shape of whatever font you work in. And some fonts are superior to others. This may seem a petty point, but I actually consider it quite significant.

Every computer and every program uses a default font. In most cases, that default font is not particularly good. (This is especially true if you use Word. Die, Calibri!) More often than not, it is an old and tired font that predates the high-quality screens we have access to today.

There is a simple solution: Try some different fonts. You can experiment with the ones that come with your computer or you can visit font sites to download a selection of free options. (See Google Fonts or Font Squirrel.) You can even go all-out and buy some fonts if you like, though you will probably find them pretty expensive. Look around and find a font that you deem beautiful. Combine that font with a minimalistic writing tool, and you may well find that it transforms the whole experience of writing.

Ulysses

Find a Good Environment

By now you have found a great writing tool and begun to write in a great font. There’s just one tip left to go: Find a great writing environment. Where and when you write has a significant impact on how you write.

When and where do you like to write? When and where do the words just flow? Find those places and establish habits in them. You can do the coffee-shop-hop, working for a couple of hours in one coffee joint, then moving down the road to another one. (Make sure you buy something every couple of hours; that’s just common courtesy.) You can work in the quiet room at the public library. You can work with people all around you, or find a place where you can be absolutely alone. You can write on the back deck or while sprawled out on the couch. Find your place, find your time, and just enjoy yourself.

Speaking Personally

The fact is, the context and the tools of our writing deeply impact the ease and the quality of our writing. Find the contexts and the tools that work best for you.

On a personal note, I love Ulysses for my day-to-day writing, though I eventually port book-length projects to Scrivener. I typically write on my iMac using Adobe Caslon Pro as my font, though on some days I need an Avenir fix. I set Ulysses to full-screen, dark mode, turn off notifications, set the font to a large size, and make sure nothing else is on my screen. If I am on the road, I use iCloud to sync my documents to my iPad where, again, I use Ulysses, but with Lato as my font. My favorite and most creative places to write are my little basement office, the quiet room at Oakville Public Library, and, strangely enough, aboard airplanes.

But Then I Had Hope
August 31, 2015

Over the weekend I could see that Aileen had something on her mind. We spoke and she told me about reading the news, about seeing more Christian men fall into scandal, and, in the face of it all, her confusion, her despair, the crumbling of her hope. I asked if she would write about it. Here is what she said.


How long ago was it now? Was it ten years? Twelve? How long has it been since I faced it for the first time? It was a whispered rumor here, a shaded suggestion there. Then it was the devastated wife weeping in my basement as I tried desperately to draw on some wisdom, some biblical truth, that would help her. Little did I know, all those years ago, that this was simply the tip of the iceberg. But I had hope.

Six years ago, Tim wrote Sexual Detox, and I followed up with False Messages. The number of letters we received shocked us—heart-breaking, soul-crushing emails from guilty men and women married to unfaithful husbands. I wrestled and fought to understand it all from a biblical perspective. Why do so many men, and even so many Christian men, have such weakness when it comes to sexual sin? But even then I still had hope, hope in the truth of the gospel, hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the years since, I have listened to more stories of more Christian men falling, wept with more women, and prayed a whole lot. I have tried to explain to women how their husbands think about sex: Your husband doesn’t just want it, he wants you. I’ve tried to tell them that sex is a good gift that God gives as a means of grace in marriage, a means of bonding a husband and wife together. I have counseled single young women to pursue purity. I have been teaching all the right stuff. And I have believed it all. I had hope.

Then came Ashley Madison and the suggestion that hundreds of pastors would have to resign after being caught with accounts on this website that glorifies adultery. And it’s not just pastors—hundreds of other Christian men, both single and married, have been caught up in the scandal. Now there are more broken homes, more devastated churches, more weeping wives, more mocking of God. And I have to tell you, this week, today, I am struggling to find hope.

I have fought to understand the struggle men face. I have fought to have compassion. I have encouraged wives to extend forgiveness, to willingly and joyfully give themselves to their husbands. But you know what? I just don’t know how I can keep doing it. Not when so many husbands are deceptively defiling the marriage bed. Not when so many young, single men are recklessly defiling the future marriage bed. Not when so many men seem just plain unwilling to change.

Men, you are supposed to be modeling holiness before the world (Titus 2:6-8). You are supposed to be cherishing your wives as Christ cherishes his church (Ephesians 5:25). You are supposed to be abstaining from all sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). You are supposed to be fleeing youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22). Why are so many of you failing at these basic tasks? Is it really that difficult? You would almost think that this one sin is beyond the power of the Holy Spirit.

You who keep choosing to sin, you who keep visiting those websites, you who have secret lives you keep hidden from your friends and your wives: Why won’t you stop? You know that God loves to give victory over every sin. You know that God calls you to pursue sanctification. You know that the Holy Spirit equips you to succeed. God has given you everything you need in the gospel. So why do you keep failing? The only conclusion I can come to is that you are so consumed with self-gratification that you are not willing to fight, and I mean really willing to fight, this sin. If it’s not that you can’t, it must be that you won’t.

I plead with you. I plead with you on behalf of your wives, on behalf of your future wives, on behalf of Christian women everywhere: Stop. Just stop.

Stop believing that this is a special sin that women just can’t understand—we do understand sin. This isn’t a special sin, it is just sin: God-belittling, Christ-mocking, Spirit-despising sin. Stop pretending like there are no future consequences to your actions. Stop putting your selfish desires first. Stop engaging in activities that bring shame on the gospel. Stop doing things that leave us picking up the pieces of your devastated wife. Stop indulging in your sin, and start thinking and acting like a God-honoring, Christ-praising, Spirit-glorifying man. For the love of God and his church, stop.

Why You Should Not Wear a Crucifix
August 30, 2015

Crucifixes have long been a fixture in Roman Catholic worship. But in the past few years I have begun to see more and more Protestants wearing them as well, exchanging their empty cross for one that contains an image of the suffering Savior. J.I. Packer once addressed the issue of the crucifix, and addressed it well.

What harm is there, we ask, in the worshipper surrounding himself with statues and pictures, if they help him to lift his heart to God?

We are accustomed to treat the question of whether these things should be used or not as a matter of temperament and personal taste. We know that some people have crucifixes and pictures of Christ in their rooms, and they tell us that looking at these objects helps them to focus their thoughts on Christ when they pray. We know that many claim to be able to worship more freely and easily in churches that are filled with such ornaments than they can in churches that are bare of them. Well, we say, what is wrong with that? What harm can these things do? If people really do find them helpful, what more is there to be said? What point can there be in prohibiting them? In the face of this perplexity, some would suggest that the second commandment only applies to immoral and degrading representations of God, borrowed from pagan cults, and to nothing more.

But the very wording of the [second] commandment rules out such a limiting exposition. God says quite categorically, “you shall not make an idol in the form of anything” for use in worship. This categorical statement rules out, not simply the use of pictures and statues which depict God as an animal, but also the use of pictures and statues which depict him as the highest created thing we know—a human. It also rules out the use of pictures and statues of Jesus Christ as a man, although Jesus himself was and remains man; for all pictures and statues are necessarily made after the “likeness” of ideal manhood as we conceive it, and therefore come under the ban which the commandment imposes.

Packer goes on to say that whatever else the second commandment teaches “there is no room for doubting that the commandment obliges us to disassociate our worship, both in public and in private, from all pictures and statues of Christ, no less than from pictures and statues of his Father.”

Why? Why is this prohibition in place and why is it so important that we heed it? He offers two reasons.

1. Images dishonour God, for they obscure his glory. The likeness of things in heaven (sun, moon, stars), and in earth (people, animals, birds, insects), and in the sea (fishes, mammals, crustaceans), is precisely not a likeness of their Creator. “A true image of God,” wrote Calvin, “is not to be found in all the world; and hence … his glory is defiled, and his truth corrupted by the lie, whenever he is set before our eyes in a visible form … Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption his majesty is adulterated, and he is figured to be other than he is.” … The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom the represent.

…The pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of his deity, his victory on the cross, and his present kingdom. It displays his human weakness, but it conceals his divine strength; it depicts the reality of his pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of his joy and his power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of deity.

2. Images mislead us. They convey false ideas about God. The very inadequacy with which they represent him perverts our thoughts of him, and plants in our minds errors of all sorts about his character and will. … It is a matter of historical fact that the use of the crucifix as an aid to prayer has encouraged people to equate devotion with brooding over Christ’s bodily sufferings; it has made them morbid about the spiritual value of physical pain, and it has kept them from knowledge of the risen Savior.

These examples show how images will falsify the truth of God in the minds of men. Psychologically, it is certain that if you habitually focus your thoughts on an image or picture of the One to whom you are going to pray, you will come to think of him, and pray to him, as the image represents him. Thus, you will in this sense “bow down” and “worship” your image; and to the extent to which the image fails to tell the truth about God, to that extent will you fail to worship God in truth. That is why God forbids you and me to make use of images and pictures in our worship.

Image credit: Shutterstock. Quote drawn from Knowing God, chapter 4.

Not In Part But the Whole
August 26, 2015

Sometimes it is the unexpected things that get you. Sometimes it is the words you have heard or said or sung a hundred times over that suddenly leap off the page—words like “My sin, not in part but the whole.” The words come, of course, from the much-loved hymn “It Is Well With My Soul,” a song that joyfully celebrates the freedom that is found in salvation.

“Not in part but the whole.” Have you ever considered your life, your death, and your eternity if you had to face God with your sins only partially forgiven? Can you imagine singing “My sin, not the whole but in part”?

Thankfully, wonderfully, forgiveness is not a partial thing. Forgiveness does not come in half measures; it is all or nothing. It is either extended or held back, freely offered or completely withheld. To be partly forgiven is to be wholly damned. Partial forgiveness is complete condemnation. The Christian and the Christian alone knows the pure delight of God’s full and final forgiveness.

Christian, you can joyfully accept and proclaim “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.” The biggest of your sins is nailed to the very same cross as the smallest. God has forgiven the sins you don’t even remember in the same way and to the same degree as the sins you just can’t forget. He has extended grace for the sins known to the whole world and the ones known only to you and him. And all of this means that you, with the hymn writer, must conclude: “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

Image credit: Shutterstock

August 25, 2015

Sanger
Sometimes the truth can be a bit of an annoyance. Sometimes the truth can even get in the way of our best intentions, and in the way of our attempts to right the world’s wrongs.

Over the past couple of months, Planned Parenthood has been exposed as a ghastly business profiteering from the sale of aborted babies. Undercover videos have taken us into secret meetings where deals are struck and even into labs where aborted children are dismantled and prepared for shipping. Some of Planned Parenthood’s high-ranking employees have been exposed as profit-driven and uncaring, concerned more for the well-being of their personal finances than the health of the women who visit their clinics.

Along the way, those who fight for the pro-life cause have been passing along information about Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger. This morning Joe Carter, writing for The Gospel Coalition, offered 9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Sanger. And this seems like as good a time as any to remind ourselves of this: Truth matters, and truth is always better than half-truths or full-out lies. This is exactly why I so appreciate Carter’s article.

When it comes to Margaret Sanger, many people have been passing along isolated quotes that portray her as a relentlessly racist zealot who created her birth control clinics for the express reason of eradicating African-Americans through her Negro Project. Most people draw this from a quote where she says, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population…” But as Carter says in his article, “More likely, she feared that if the belief were to spread that the goal of the Negro Project was to ‘exterminate the Negro population’ it would hinder her true eugenic objective: the extermination of the subset of the black population that she considered ‘degenerate’.” So yes, she said those words, but they need to be read in context.

Now listen, there is little moral superiority in attempting to eradicate a subpopulation of African-American “degenerates” in place of an entire population of African Americans. Both are unconscionable and horrific. Really, the fact that her actions were in danger of being construed as exterminating an entire population just shows how abhorrent they were. By no means am I defending Sanger. Rather, I am simply pointing out that Sanger’s views as they have been memed through Facebook may not be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And as Christians, we need to concern ourselves foremost with what is true, even if it seems like the truth won’t serve our cause as much as a half-truth.

The truth, at least as described by Carter’s research, is that Sanger was, indeed, racist, but not to such a degree that she wished to eradicate all African-Americans. Carter does not deny “that Sanger’s views were implicitly—and sometimes explicitly racist—or that the effect of her ideas and organizations did not lead to the destruction of black communities. It is merely to say that it doesn’t appear racial superiority was her primary motivation for advocating sterilization and birth control.” If that is true, it is important, and it is all we should repeat. In Sanger’s case, the truth is plenty disturbing and damning.

Sometimes we want things to be true because it seems like that version of the truth would be more helpful to our cause. But truth always trumps falsehood. We do not serve our cause by making Margaret Sanger “more racist” than she actually was, or by assigning to her motives she did not actually have. When we do that, we open ourselves to reproach and ridicule. But even worse, we show that we are losing confidence in God, who is the source of all truth. We show that we are losing confidence in his ability to bring justice. God does not need our lies or our half-truths to further his cause and to right this world’s wrongs. He just needs the truth because, in the end, the truth will prevail.


Update: Based on discussion in Facebook, I would like to append the following paragraph: “Let me offer an example of the kind of thing I am talking about in this article. I have often seen Sanger quoted as saying, “Colored people are like human weeds and need to be exterminated.” I have seen that as memes floating around Facebook. I have seen that quoted in many articles. Yet as far as I can see, it is not an accurate quote. Therefore, as Christians who know and love the truth, we should not repeat it (at least, until we can prove that she actually said it). But even more importantly, we don’t need to. We can stick to the truth and nothing but the truth and trust that the truth will be more powerful and more effective than a half-truth or full lie. As I say in the article, “In Sanger’s case, the truth is plenty disturbing and damning.” There’s no need to fear the truth or to enhance the truth. Going beyond the truth doesn’t help our cause; it damages it.”

Flipping God the Bird
August 24, 2015

Gestures are funny things. Gestures have no intrinsic meaning, but they do have very important assigned meanings. Here in North America the simple thumbs-up gesture means “well done,” but in some other cultures it carries a meaning that is vulgar and offensive. Or just think of George W. Bush at his 2005 inauguration flashing the “hook ‘em horns” gesture of the Texas Longhorns. Italians were shocked because they use that same gesture to indicate that a man’s wife is cheating on him. The gesture is the same, but it carries a very different meaning.

In many places in the world, elevating the middle finger is about as offensive as gestures get. It is a symbol of utter scorn, a symbol associated with the most offensive four-letter word. People flash it to display utter contempt toward another person. It is almost a dare: This is what I think of you; what are you going to do about it?

I think we understand humanity best when we understand that human beings are born with our middle finger extended toward God. We grow up with our middle finger extended toward God. We die with our middle finger extended toward God. At least we do unless God intervenes and lowers it by his grace.

Human beings hate God. We are born hating God, we die hating God, and we live our short lives hating God. This hatred is the motivation behind the way we interact with God and with what God has made.

We hate God so we hate his creation. The reason we treat the earth badly is not that we hate the earth or are even apathetic about it. It’s that we hate God. We display our contempt toward God by thinking too little of his creation, by polluting it recklessly, by stewarding it poorly. We treat it badly as a display of our scorn for God.

We hate God so we hate his creatures. We only kick the dog because at that moment we can’t kick God. We only treat animals badly because we don’t know how to treat God badly. We don’t actually have a beef with them, we have a beef with God and take it out on his creatures.

Most importantly, we hate God so we hate his image. God tells us that there is just one creature who is made in his image and in his likeness—human beings. The closest we can get to harming or destroying God is harming or destroying human beings. This explains so many of the headlines we read every day. What is abortion but humanity elevating our middle finger toward God by gleefully destroying the creatures that God loves most? What is euthanasia but people flipping God the bird while ending a life created by God? What are gay marriage and no-fault divorce and the pornography plague but people looking God in the eye, elevating that middle finger, and daring him to do something about it? We know we cannot harm God, but we do know we can harm people.

Humanity is in a state of open warfare with God. We cannot get at God (except for that one time we could, and we crucified him). But we can, and will, get at anything that comes from God and anything that reflects God.

Thank God for his grace. Thank God for his grace which has brought peace between God and those who have put their faith in Christ. Thank God for his grace which has removed our scorn and contempt and allowed us, those who are his, to now live for the good of all he has made, and the glory of all that he is.

Image credit: Shutterstock

John Piper on Parenting
August 23, 2015

John Piper recently addressed the question, Does Proverbs Promise My Child Will Not Stray? in a recent episode of Ask Pastor John. As you might have guessed, the question was based on Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Piper ended the episode by sharing these 9 truths for parents to remember and follow:

1) In general, bringing up children God’s way will lead them to eternal life. In general, that is true.

2) This reality would include putting our hope in God and praying earnestly for our wisdom and for their salvation all the way to the grave. Don’t just pray until they get converted at age 6. Pray all the way to the grave for your children’s conversions and for the perseverance of their apparent conversions.

3) Saturate them with the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

4) Be radically consistent and authentic in your own faith — not just in behavior, but in affections. Kids need to see how precious Jesus is to mom and dad, not just how he is obeyed or how they get to church or how they read devotions or how they do duty, duty, duty. They need to see the joy and the satisfaction in mom and dad’s heart that Jesus is the greatest friend in the world.

5) Model the preciousness of the gospel. As we parents confess our own sins and depend on grace, our kids will say, “Oh, you don’t have to be perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. They love grace. They love the gospel because Jesus forgives their sins. And I will know then he can forgive my sins.”

6) Be part of a Bible-saturated, loving church. Kids need to be surrounded by other believers and not just mom and dad.

7) Require obedience. Do not be lazy. There are so many young parents today that appear so lazy. They are not willing to get up and do what needs to be done to bring this kid into line. So we should follow through on our punishments and follow through especially on all of our promises of good things that we say we are going to do for them.

8) God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids and there would hardly be any Christians in the world if he didn’t save them out of failed families.

9) Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business and we must roll all of that onto him.

Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online
August 21, 2015

You have heard by now that the site AshleyMadison.com was hacked and that millions of users had their information made public. Ashley Madison is a company that exists to facilitate (and even guarantee) adulterous relationships, and now those people who wanted to be quietly unfaithful to their spouses have been suddenly outed. As I read the headlines and heard of some of those caught up in the scandal (including, sadly, Josh Duggar), I thought back to one of the first times in Internet history that we had to grapple with the power of the data we leave behind us every time we use the Web. For that we will need to go back to 2006.

In 2006, America Online made an epic misjudgment which taught us a valuable lesson: Who you are when you are alone and online, that is who you really are—no more, and no less. As part of a research project headed Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, AOL made available to the public a massive amount of data culled from their search engine — the search history of 650,000 users over a three-month period. This totaled some 21 million searches. Before releasing the data, they anonymized it, stripping away user names and replacing names with numbers, so that a user with a name like timc2000 simply became User #75636534. Yet because of the often-personal nature of the data, it did not take long before many of those abstract numbers were linked to real names, an obvious and serious violation of privacy and confidentiality. Within days, AOL realized its mistake and withdrew the data, but already it had been copied and uploaded elsewhere on the Internet, where today it lives on in infamy.

Some of the search histories were dark and disturbing, others unremarkable in every way. Still others were strangely amusing. It was often possible to reconstruct a person’s life, at least in part, from what they searched for over a period of time. Consider this user:

  • shipping pets 2006-03-01 16:36:48
  • does ata ship pets 2006-03-01 17:10:35
  • continental.com 2006-03-01 21:34:53
  • pet shipping 2006-03-01 21:35:11
  • broken bones in cat 2006-03-04 03:31:53
  • cat has broken bones above base of tail vet said it will heal on its own
    2006-03-04 03:32:53
  • cat broken bones and diarreah 2006-03-04 03:58:24
  • cat health 2006-03-04 14:10:22
  • cat has broken bones wasn’t bleeding before but now is and now she
    can’t defecate too 2006-03-04 14:16:35
  • mucous blood diarreah in cat 2006-03-04 14:22:47

It is not too difficult to understand what transpired through this three-day history of searches. The search engine data tells a sad story about a person and his or her cat.

This glut of user data raised a nearly endless number of questions and concerns. Primarily, it brought awareness to the fact that search engines know you better than you may like. Actually, they probably know you better than you know yourself in some ways. You tend to forget what you have searched for in the past; they don’t. We may like to think that our searches are just quick queries, harmless and pointless inquiries known only to us.

Here is an AOL user whose searches tell a sad story (for sake of space, I have stripped out a large number of searches):

  • body fat calliper 2006-03-01 18:54:10
  • curb morning sickness 2006-03-05 08:53:23
  • get fit while pregnant 2006-03-09 18:49:37
  • he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:01
  • you’re pregnant he doesn’t want the baby 2006-03-11 03:52:49
  • online degrees theology 2006-03-11 04:05:24
  • online christian colleges 2006-03-11 04:13:33
  • foods to eat when pregnant 2006-03-12 09:38:02
  • baby names 2006-03-14 19:11:10
  • baby names and meanings 2006-03-14 20:01:27
  • physician search 2006-03-23 10:20:04
  • best spa vacation deals 2006-03-27 20:04:09
  • maternity clothes 2006-03-28 09:28:25
  • pregnancy workout videos 2006-03-29 10:01:39
  • buns of steel video 2006-03-29 10:12:38
  • what is yoga 2006-03-29 12:17:31
  • what is theism 2006-03-29 12:18:30
  • hindu religion 2006-03-29 12:18:56
  • yoga and hindu 2006-03-29 12:32:05
  • is yoga alligned with christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:18
  • yoga and christianity 2006-03-29 12:33:42
  • abortion clinics charlotte nc 2006-04-17 11:00:02
  • greater carolinas womens center 2006-04-17 11:40:22
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • can christians be forgiven for abortion 2006-04-17 21:14:19
  • roe vs. wade 2006-04-17 22:22:07
  • effects of abortion on fibroids 2006-04-18 06:50:34
  • abortion clinic charlotte 2006-04-18 15:14:03
  • symptoms of miscarriage 2006-04-18 16:14:07
  • water aerobics charlotte nc 2006-04-18 19:41:27
  • abortion clinic chsrlotte nc 2006-04-18 21:45:39
  • total woman vitamins 2006-04-20 16:38:16
  • engagement rings 2006-04-20 16:58:37
  • high risk abortions 2006-04-20 17:53:49
  • abortion fibroid 2006-04-20 17:55:18
  • benefits of water aerobics 2006-04-20 23:25:50
  • wedding gown styles 2006-04-26 19:37:34
  • recover after miscarriage 2006-05-22 18:17:53
  • marry your live-in 2006-05-27 07:25:45

This woman goes from searching about pregnancy, to realizing that the father does not want to keep the baby, to researching abortion clinics, to researching whether she can, according to her faith, choose abortion, to dealing with a miscarriage. And at the end of it all, life goes on and she seems ready to be married.

What is so amazing about these searches is the way people transition seamlessly from the normal and mundane to the outrageous and perverse. They are, thus, an apt reflection of real life. The user who is in one moment searching for information about a computer game may in the next be looking for the most violent pornography he can imagine. Back and forth it goes, from information about becoming a foster parent to the search for incestual pornography. One user went from searching for preteen pornography to searching for games appropriate for a youth group. Others, spurned lovers, sought out ways of exacting revenge while still others grappled with the moral implications of cheating on their spouses. These searches are a glimpse into the hearts of the people who made them.

And now millions of Ashley Madison users have been outed in much the same way, except this time their actual names and personal information are sitting right there alongside their data. They have been exposed as people who went looking for adultery. And the whole world is sitting by, looking on with an amused eye. Spouses are searching through the data wondering if even their husband, their wife, may have been involved. Gossip blogs are combing the data looking for headlines.

One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.

(Much of this article is excerpted from my book The Next Story. Image credit: Shutterstock)

There Is No Better Life
August 19, 2015

The old catechism says it well: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. You and I exist for God’s glory. In fact, all things exist for God’s glory. We get that. But how? How do we glorify God? I want to list 4 simple ways that you can glorify God today and every day.

Glorify God by Admiring God

You glorify God by admiring God, by simply appreciating him for who he is and for what he has done. Within the Bible we see plenty of examples of each.

Consider Paul admiring God at the end of Romans 11. Paul has spent all this time discussing man’s great need and God’s great provision in Jesus Christ, and then he just can’t help himself: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” He just has to break into this little song of worship, this little song that brings glory to God.

You can also admire God for who he is, pondering his character and attributes. We see this in the little doxology at the end of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude considers who God is and then naturally glorifies him.

You glorify God through your admiration of his character and his ways. Do you make it your habit to admire God?

Glorify God by Worshipping God

You glorify God by worshipping God. Just think of Psalm 29 which begins like this:

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

Worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life (which is why I recently asked What Would I Lose if I Lost Worship?). Worship is ascribing to God his own worth. It is “the art of losing self in the adoration of another.” When we worship him we give him honor, we magnify him in the sight of those who join with us. We declare that he is the point and purpose of our entire world and our entire existence. God is glorified in this kind of self-forgetful worship.

Do you love to worship? Do you take every opportunity to worship? Do you worship for God’s sake and God’s glory?

Glorify God by Obeying God

You glorify God by obeying God. This is true whether that obedience is expressed through character or through action. You glorify God by living a life of obedience, by doing those things he says to do and by refusing to do those things he forbids. The New Testament tells us with crystal clarity that there is an old way of living that God tells us to turn away from and a new way of living that he tells us to embrace.

It makes God look great, it brings glory to his name, when you stop sinning, when you put to death those evil deeds and evil desires. It makes God look great when you begin living righteously and, even more, when you long to behave righteously. Why? Because you prove that the power of God is active in you.

God is glorified in your holiness, not in your sin. Do you grow in holiness so that God can be glorified? God is glorified in your selfless deeds, not your selfish ones. Do you love and serve others?

Glorify God by Delighting in God

Finally, you glorify God by delighting in God. To delight in God is to have great affection for him, to find your heart moved by him, to find ultimate joy in him. It is to love and long to do things that make him look great. It is to engage all you are and all you’ve got in the full-out pursuit of God. Like Jesus said, it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” When you delight in God you express free and willing love toward him. You see God as a great treasure who is worthy of your pursuit, worthy of your affection.

I love how Thomas Watson says it: “True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God.” Could it be said of you that you are burning in love to God?

No Better Life

God does all things for his glory. If you can get this in your mind and into your heart, it will transform the way you look at the world and the way you live in the world. It will change everything. It will allow you to give up pride and position as long as God is glorified. It will allow you to give up lifelong dreams and treasured sins as long as God is glorified. It will even allow you to joyfully give up your life, firmly believing that God will be glorified. There is no better life than the life lived for the sake and the glory of God.

Note: These 4 points were drawn roughly and loosely from Thomas Watson’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Taking God at His Word
August 18, 2015

So much of the Christian life comes down to this simple discipline: Taking God at his word. God speaks to me through the Bible and makes so many precious promises. The question is, will I believe, and will I obey? Will I take God at his word?

If I take 1 day out of every 7 and dedicate to it rest and to worship, will you still provide? Can I have confidence that I don’t need to work 7 days out of the week in order to survive? God says, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Take me at my word.”

Have my sins really been forgiven? Am I actually blameless before the righteous Judge of all the universe. God says, “I have delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of my beloved Son, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Take me at my word.”

If I refuse to succumb to this sexual temptation, if I walk away from the opportunity or refuse to give in to the desire, will you really satisfy? Can you actually satisfy? God says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from me, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Take me at my word.”

Can God really use this painful situation for my good? Can he really bring beauty from these ashes? God says, “I work together all things for good, for those who are called according to my purpose. Take me at my word.”

Is salvation really all of grace? Isn’t there at least something I still need to earn? Isn’t there at least something I need to contribute? God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Take me at my word.”

Do I really need to stop this sin I enjoy so much? It’s such a little one and it brings me such joy. Does it really matter that much? God says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments. Take me at my word.”

Can I actually have confidence that I will not fall away from God? Can I have confidence that I will go to heaven? God says, “Be confident of this very thing, that I who have begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Take me at my word.”

The great enemy of the Christian is the sin of unbelief—the sin of refusing to accept what God says and the sin of refusing to do what God says. The great friend of the Christian is the joy of belief and the joy of obedience. Where is God asking you to simply take him at his word?

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