Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Meanderings

Every life counts...every life has meaning...every life makes a difference...no matter how brief.

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Is the church "over-fathered and under-mothered". Check out a candid discussion with Christian songwriter Matt Redmon on romantic language in praise music. I found his thoughts encouraging, since I find myself with some of the same reservations. (HT to Lisa)

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A bit of enlightening background for Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal.

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Losing the News

Newspapers are in trouble, and many Web sites, blogs and cable news shows have opinionated hosts at the helm. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Jones talks about his book, Losing the News, and the crisis facing impartial reporting.

"For over a century," Jones writes, "Americans have had as a birthright a remarkably good — though far from perfect — core of reported news that is as essential to our freedom as the Constitution itself. But the times we live in trigger an unsettling cascade of questions about journalism and news."

You may listen to an interview with Alex Jones here. Click the link to read an excerpt of his book Losing the News.

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Billions...what do they look like? Check it out....

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"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are treated to a spectacular view of cities on Earth lit up at night....City lights provide sharp boundaries that delineate the densest concentrations of people, allowing us to assess the effect of urbanization on the Earth’s ecosystems. Transport corridors and major commercial developments jump out..."

Click here to see photos from the Space Station of several large metropolitan areas from space. We humans are a bigger deal than you may have realized. (HT to my Twitter friend, Estelle, for this one.)

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'A Mighty Long Way' From Little Rock'

In 1957, the "Little Rock Nine" enrolled in racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest member of the group.

In her book, A Mighty Long Way, she remembers her journey. Her trip began with a decision she calls a "no-brainer." She signed a piece of paper with her intention to attend Little Rock Central High School, and "didn't think another thing of it."

Listen to a moving interview with author, Carlotta Walls LaNier, and read an excerpt of her book here.
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A few thoughts from John Piper regarding cosmetic surgery. I'm inclined to agree.

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"It may look like a piece of honeycomb, but this lattice-shaped image is the first ever close-up view of a single molecule.

Scientists from IBM used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to reveal the chemical bonds within a molecule.

'This is the first time that all the atoms in a molecule have been imaged,' lead researcher Leo Gross said."


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Again, take a moment to fact check the e-mails you may be receiving regarding H.R. 3200, before you pass them on. As Christians, we must not allow ourselves the option of spreading misinformation, slander, or lies - no matter how strongly we may feel about an issue. If we are not known for our honesty in the smallest of things, we will not be believed when we testify to the greatest truth of all, the Gospel.

Click here to see the document itself.

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Over the course of my year or two of blogging, I've developed several friendships with Christians in several other countries. Occasionally the subject of the health care debate in America has arisen as a topic in our conversations. As this recent comment from a friend is fairly representative of the reactions I've gotten from my non-American friends, I'd like to share it here:
Please excuse this little lecture, Laurie, but as a Canadian I find it puzzling to watch as America wrestles to reinvent the wheel regarding health care. Things that I and most of the developed world take for granted, such as automatic coverage seem to be revolutionary concepts down there.

As you know my wife and I were recently the involuntary guests of our health care system due to a motorcycle accident. While we had plenty to worry about, we didn't have to worry about 1) how to pay for it, 2) our coverage running out before treatment was complete, 3) whether coverage would be denied because of a pre-existing condition; or 4) whether we would be dropped from our plan afterward.

Instead, we focused on getting better. And I might add that in spite of what has been suggested in some stateside ads, we received first class care all the way through.

I was in for 3 days with 3 surgeries; my wife was in for almost 4 weeks with 2 surgeries. Total cost: $702 for the ambulance ride.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What would I do if Christ did not uphold me?

I would fall.
"It is not fit that, in a covenant of mercy and saving grace, the reward of life should be suspended on man's perseverance, as depending on the strength and steadfastness of his own will. It is a covenant of works, and not a covenant of grace, that suspends eternal life on that which is the fruit of a mans own strength, to keep him from falling. If all is of free and sovereign grace, then free grace has undertaken the matter to complete and finish it, and has not left it to men themselves, and to the power of their own wills, as it was under the first covenant. As divine grace has commenced the work, it will finish it; and therefore we shall be kept to the end."
Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (emphasis mine)

As some of you know, I've spent the majority of my life professing to be a Christian. Then I got saved, shortly before my forty-first birthday.

My relationship to the church all those years often brings to mind childhood memories of the felt boards my Sunday School teachers used to use. They would put up a cloth Jesus. Then they would put up a disciple or two. When the story changed, those flimsy felt disciples would be peeled away to make room for the next character. I, throughout my life, like a felt disciple, adhered myself from time to time, as the story suited me, to the church and its Savior. If I felt a need. I would be there. If I wanted some freedom to be myself - live my own life - I pulled away. This I did time and time again, as did most of the "disciples" I'd known. I sometimes wondered about those occasional disciples that didn't seem to be separate pieces of felt. The ones that stayed up on the board and were never removed - the ones whose lives were bound up with the Savior on the board. Though made of the same stuff, they were different. They were permanent. I wondered about them, but couldn't imagine living that way. I liked my freedom.

As I said, something happened to change all that when I was forty. My life was turned upside down. What I had thought of as freedom, I was beginning to see, was no freedom at all. I was a slave to the various pullings and tuggings of my conflicting desires and appetites. I was a little scrap of fabric, demanding my freedom yet being blown about, trampled and useless. And one day I recognized what I was, and what my "freedom" had done for me. I ran back to the board, as I'd often done. I needed help. But this time I looked at that Savior and realized something new. He is beautiful. I didn't just want something from Him. I wanted to be with Him, forever. I didn't just need some help. I needed to be changed. I wanted to be changed. I wanted to be one of the permanent ones - more than anything in my life, I wanted to be one of the disciples who could never be pulled away from the presence of that Savior. It became the driving force in my life, my great goal. But how could I know that I would not be peeled away this time?
I'd never been able to hang on before (or even really wanted to). What hope did I have that I could hold fast to the end and be saved? I asked whoever would listen, until I finally met a pastor who introduced me to the Scriptural teaching of "the perseverance of the saints". That question is the reason the "Doctrines of Grace" have become so dear to me. I do not love doctrine for doctrine's sake - as some are inclined to do. I love it for the hope it gives me that I can persevere to the end and be numbered among those who are faithful unto death and receive the crown of life. (Rev. 2:10)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Saturday Science

I can never resist when science heads to the kitchen. Prepare to be amazed!


Now, a one time only special bonus science video in honor of our Second Annual Ice Cream Social at Sovereign Joy Christian Fellowship:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring

The following is the next installment in Tim Challies' series Reading the Classics Together - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I'll try to make each post readable on its own, however I highly encourage your own study of this Puritan classic by Jeremiah Burroughs.
(Chapter 10)

By "aggravations," Burroughs means "things that add weight". In other words, he'll be describing "things that make the sin of murmuring even worse than it is in and of itself". As if murmuring itself isn't evil enough for us, we sinful humans manage to aggravate it in several ways:

I. Murmuring "when we enjoy an abundance of mercy".
"...the greater and the more abundant the mercy that we enjoy the greater and the viler is the sin of murmuring....To be discontented in any afflicted condition is sinful and evil, but to be discontented when we are in the midst of God's mercies, when we are not able to count the mercies of God, still to be discontented because we have not all we would have, this is a greater evil."
In this regard Burroughs makes reference to events in his time and place in history to which we are not privy. What we can gather, however, is that the believers have enjoyed a period of rest from their troubles during that summer. He takes a rather unusual tack in encouraging his readers to not just consider their private conditions, but the condition of the church as a whole and the condition of their nation. His point is that we not become so small minded and self-focused that we lose sight of God's "public mercies," that common grace which He shows to larger society. Rather than allowing them to escape our notice we should be allowing them to "quiet our hearts and keep us from discontent. The sin of discontent for private afflictions is exceedingly aggravated by the consideration of public mercies to the land..."

Reflect for a moment, if you will, upon the great mercies God has shown to us in America. We do not have anarchy. We have a functioning governmental infrastructure. We have law enforcement, and national security forces. We have roads, means of transportation and communication. We have a government that comes to our aid in emergencies - national, local, and even personal. We have "safety nets" for those who find themselves unexpectedly unemployed, and a health care and financial assistance system for the elderly. We have education available for free to all children regardless of income level. We have freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, and freedom to come and go as we please. We are free at the moment, and for the most part, from the deadly threat of many of the diseases that were once endemic to North America: malaria, typhoid fever, polio, German measles, diptheria, tetanus, and smallpox, to name a few. We are not subject to genocide, or warfare on our soil. We have sanitation systems, ample availability of food in great variety, clean water, electricity, and indoor plumbing. I could go on, but won't. These are all general mercies, rain that falls on the just and the unjust alike. Contemplating them reminds me of God's great goodness, even toward those who hate Him or pretend He doesn't exist. As Burroughs says, "...all our private afflictions should be swallowed up in the public mercies."

And if we are Christians, our murmuring is greatly "aggravated" by the great mercies shown to us in particular. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will..." Eph. 1:3-11

"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, not that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Rom. 5:8-11

We are told by Paul, in Romans 5 that reconciliation with God should be the cause of great rejoicing. And truly, what greater thing could anyone hope for? To have peace and fellowship with the Most High God is the greatest gift possible, a gift paid for by the death of His beloved and only begotten Son. To us who were His enemies, deserving of nothing but wrath, He gave His Son in order to give us Himself. He's given His Spirit to indwell us. We have the Holy Trinity. Is that not enough?
"And now has God given to you the contentment of your hearts? Take heed of being the cause of any grief to your brethren....God is very jealous of the glory of his mercy, and if any ill use should be made of the mercy of God after we enjoy it, Oh, it would go to the heart of God. Nothing is more grievous to the heart of God than the abuse of mercy..."
Consider Matthew 18:21-35, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, as an example of this "abuse of mercy" and God's response to it: "Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

At this point Burroughs anticipates an objection to his statements thus far. In so many words the objection is, "Nobody knows my pain! You just don't know how bad I've got it!" I would summarize his response this way, "I may not know your pain, but I see the many mercies you do have. Even just the fact that you are not in hell at this very moment, like you deserve to be, is mercy that outweighs any suffering you are experiencing at the moment. That you have the gospel and salvation is an even greater mercy than that!" He compares our complaints as Christians to those of Korah and his company in Numbers 16 to whom Moses said, "Seemeth it a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord?" And I would refer as well to 1 Peter 2:9-10: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."
"Seemeth it a small thing" to us to have been separated unto God to be a royal priesthood? We have received an honor second only to that of Christ's, of which we are by no means worthy, and yet we complain.

Burroughs then looks to Job 2:10: "It is a speech of Job to his wife: What? said Job, when his wife would have him curse God and die, which was a degree beyond murmuring, Why, he said, 'thou speakest as one of the foolish women. Shall we receive good at the hand of God and not evil?' You see, Job helped himself against all murmuring thoughts against the ways of God, with this consideration, that he had received so much good from the Lord....you had better make God's mercies a means to lessen your sins, than to be the aggravations of the sin of murmuring." This is what he refers to as setting "one against the other," a phrase borrowed from Ecclesiastes 7:14. For every hardship you find yourself in, consider the many blessings you've known.

II. "When we murmur for small things".
"Suppose God gives a woman a child who has all his limbs and parts complete, a child who is very comely, with excellent gifts, wit and memory, but maybe there is a wart growing on the finger of the child, and she murmurs at it, and, Oh, what an affliction this is to her! She is so taken up with it, that she forgets to give any thanks to God for her child, and all the goodness of God to her in the child is swallowed up in that. Would you not say that this was folly and a very great evil in a woman to do so? Truly, our afflictions, if we weighed them aright, are but such things in comparison of our mercies....To be discontented when the affliction is small and little that increases very much the sin of murmuring."
For a biblical example of this aggravated form of murmuring, and God's response, consider the account of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard in 1 Kings 21:1-24.

III. Murmuring when you are gifted with wisdom and abilities.
"Murmuring...is too much in the weakest, yet we can bear with it sometimes in children and women who are weak, but for those who are men, men of understanding, who have wisdom, whom God employs in pubic service, that they should be discontented with everything is an exceedingly great evil."
Though he speaks in this section specifically to men, I would caution female readers not to take his words either as demeaning on the one hand, or, on the other hand, as an excuse to murmur because you're "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7).

IV. Murmuring though all God's mercies are given to us free of cost.
"...we are at God's table every day, and it is free, whatever we have. It is accounted very unmannerly for a man at his friend's table to find fault with things, though at home he may be outspoken."
According to Scripture, the only thing we have actually earned by anything we have done is death.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 6:23) Yet instead of what we've earned, God has given us His friendship, the greatest friendship that can be given: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). Imagine sitting at the table of the One who died to save your life and complaining about the fare!

V. Murmuring if you have received the thing you were previously discontented not to have.
"So it is sometimes with children, they will cry for a thing, and when you give it them, they throw it away: they are as much discontented as they were before."
VI. Murmuring if you have been raised up from and ordinary and low estate.
"It is an evil thing for people who had mean breeding, and poor beginnings to be so fastidious that nothing can please them....But it is very common for those who are raised from a low and mean condition to be more nice and dainty and more proud when they are raised than others who are of better breeding."
Once again consider the children of Israel, slaves whose baby boys are ordered to be slaughtered, who are forced to hard labor, now free and walking about with God in their midst and with all their needs met. Yet that was not enough to satisfy them. They wanted more. Manna was dull. They wanted meat. When God gave them the promised land, that was not enough. They wanted more, a king. And on the story goes. And we are the same. "If only I had a better job. If only I were thinner. If only I did not have this pain, or that wrinkle, or more children, or less children. If only that relationship were better. If only they were nicer to me. If only I had more friends. If only I'd had a different upbringing....And the list goes on. The truth is, if we won't be content in our present circumstances, with all the blessings and mercies we enjoy on any given day, we have no reason to believe we'll be content when we acquire the next thing on our list.

VII. Murmuring though you were a very great sinner in your former life.
"Certainly you never knew what it was to be humbled for your manifold sins, who are discontented at any administration of God towards you!"
This point certainly hits home for one like me, saved after 40 years of sin. The point is, the greater the mercy we've received, the greater the evil it is when we complain against God. It truly is important to keep in mind that we were once His enemies, and that it was only by His gracious choice that we are saved. Remember the seasons of your life when you walked in rebellion against God. Consider what you earned by your sin. Consider the One who took what you were owed upon Himself. We deserve nothing but death, but have been given life. He deserves nothing but glory and honor, but instead took our shame and death. He deserves everything - every bit of joy and thankfulness we can muster.

VIII. Murmuring though you are of little use in the world.
"We are being fed according to our work."
Consider Matthew 25: 14-30. God gives to each of us what we need to glorify Him, some more than others. When we complain because we've not been given much to work with, we make ourselves worthless by our discontent; we are behaving like the wicked, lazy servant in the parable. Our complaining reveals how we really feel about the master. We don't feel that we owe him anything from what's been entrusted to us, and expect to be rewarded though we've had a wicked and distrustful attitude toward Him. God gives more to those He intends to receive more from; but just because you've not received as much as someone else does not mean you have the right to be discontent and unthankful and thus to do nothing to glorify God at all.

IX. Murmuring during an affliction in which God's purpose is to humble you.
"Let me join with God in this work of his: this is how a Christian should walk with God....To observe what work God is now about and to join with God in that work of his; so that, according as God turns this way or that way, the heart should turn with God, and have workings suitable to the workings of God towards him."
Certainly this is a large part of what it means to be "led by the Spirit". Take a moment to read Romans 8:12-17. Notice that following after the flesh, which is the root of discontent, is the opposite of what it is to be led by the Spirit of God. Note also, at the end of the passage, that the Spirit leads us to suffer with Him. This is not generally what folks have in mind when they think of being "led by the Spirit." (It does not necessarily follow, however, that whatever path will lead to the most suffering is necessarily the right path either. Do not use the suffering, or lack thereof, as your criterion for choosing a path. Use the Word of God.)
"The great design God has in afflicting you is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God? For you to murmur and be discontented is to resist the work of God."
I can be certain that God has a purpose in any affliction He brings my way. I can also be certain that purpose does not involve me complaining against Him. To fight against it is to fight against God and refuse to learn what He intends to teach me.
The harder I struggle against the purposes of God, the harder it will be for me to learn from Him. (I'm also sure that if God has truly purposed to teach me something, and I complain and resist, He will get through to me one way or another. His plan will not be thwarted by my resistance, but I tremble to think what may be required to put an end to it.)

X. Murmuring when it is unusually clear that it is the hand of God which has brought on the affliction.
"When I see the Lord working in some remarkable way about an affliction beyond what anyone could have thought of, shall I resist such a remarkable hand of God? shall I stand out against God when I see he expresses his will in such a remarkable manner that he would have me to be in such a condition? Indeed, before the will of God is apparent, we may desire to avoid an affliction, and may use means for it, but when we see God expressing his will from heaven in a manner beyond what is ordinary and more remarkable, then certainly it is right for us to fall down and submit to him and not oppose God when he comes with a mighty stream against us."
Once again we can look to Job for an example of a godly response to the overwhelming and clear evidence of an extraordinary providence of God: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.' In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." Job. 1:20-22.

By way of contrast, look to the Revelation for the ultimate example of the ungodly way to respond to God's hand of affliction: "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood,which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts." (Rev. 9:20-21) And again, "The forth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory." (Rev. 16:8-9) And again, "And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe." (Rev. 16:21)

XI. Murmuring when God has been exercising us a long time under affliction.
"So when you are first a Christian and newly come into the work of Christ, perhaps you make a noise and cannot bear affliction; but are you an old Christian and yet will you be a murmuring Christian? Oh, it is a shame for any who are old believers, who have been a long time in the school of Jesus Christ, to have murmuring and discontented spirits."
"But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliciton, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." (Heb. 10:32-36) "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1: 2-4)

Bearing up under affliction is something we should be getting better and better at as we mature in Christ. If we are not learning to be content in trials, we are missing the whole point. If we are trying to be godly, without seeking to be content, we are missing the whole point. Or, as Burroughs so bluntly puts it:
"When you have been a long time in the school of afflictions, you are a very dullard in Christ's school if you have not learned this contentment."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crosses and Crowns and Counting Costs

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
"He that does not receive the gospel with all its difficulties, does not receive it as it is proposed to him. He that does not receive Christ with his cross as well as his crown, does not truly receive him at all....

"If there be any one kind or degree of temporal suffering that we have not a spirit to undergo for Christ, then there is something that we do not forsake for him....

"Those that will do contrary to the will of Christ and his glory, for the sake of avoiding suffering, deny Christ instead of denying themselves. Those that do not confess Christ before persecutors, do in fact deny him before men, and are of the number of whom Christ says, that he will deny them before his Father in heaven (Matt. 10:33); and as to whom the apostle says, 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us' (2 Tim. 2:12)....

"...to overcome the world, implies that we overcome amid its flatteries and frowns, its sufferings and difficulties. These are the weapons of the world, by which it seeks to conquer us; and if there be any of these that we have not a spirit to encounter for Christ's sake, then by such weapons the world will have us in subjection, and gain the victory over us. But Christ gives his servants the victory over the world in all its forms.

"Every true Christian has the spirit of a martyr. And if you have not the suffering spirit in the lesser trials or sufferings that God may have sent upon you, how will it be if he should expose you to bitter persecutions, such as the saints of old sometimes were called to endure? If you cannot bear trials in little things, how can you possess that charity which beareth all things?
-----Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (emphasis in bold mine)
"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." Rev. 2:10b

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Meanderings

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Cor. 13: 2



Here's another non-partisan informational site, this one devoted to research.

An interesting perspective on "death panels" . The unhappy yet undeniable truth is we're living (and dying) with them now.

Finally, here's the audio for a fascinating interview with T.R. Reid, author of The Healing of America, a Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. No matter what side of the current debate you find yourself on, you will find his discussion intriguing, entertaining, balanced, and highly informative.
"Journalist and author T.R. Reid set out on a global tour of hospitals and doctors' offices, all in the hopes of understanding how other industrialized nations provide affordable, effective universal health care. The result: his book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Science

"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made..." (Rom. 1:20)

What do you fear?

True godly fear of the LORD has an effect you might not expect in the lives and heart of believers. Rather than making them timid, it makes them bold to the point enduring humiliation, and even torture and death for the sake of the Truth of the Gospel.
"They that are truly Christians, so fear God, that his displeasure is far more terrible than all earthly afflictions and sufferings. - When Christ is telling his disciples what sufferings they should be exposed to for his sake, he says to them, 'Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him' (Luke 12:4,5) And so, again, it is said by the prophet, 'Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread' (Isaiah 8:13). Now they that are truly Christians see and know him who is so great and dreadful a God, and they know that his displeasure and wrath are far more dreadful than all the temporal sufferings that can be in the way of their duty, and more dreadful than the wrath and cruelty of men, or the worst torments that they can inflict. And therefore they have a spirit to suffer all that can be inflicted, rather than forsake God, and sin against him who can inflict upon them eternal wrath." Jonathan Edwards - Charity and Its Fruits
"And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." Rev. 21:7-8

Boldness and eternal life are the heritage of those who fear the LORD. The lake of fire is the heritage of "the cowardly," those who fear man. Let us ask ourselves this question today: "Who do I fear?"

The fear of the LORD

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14: 1a)

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (Proverbs 9:10)

"The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant." (Psalm 25:14)

You cannot even begin to know the LORD until you fear Him.

So, what is this fear of God, this prerequisite to knowing the LORD?

"The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate." Prov. 8:13

To come to know the LORD, we must fear Him, and this fear manifests itself in hatred of evil...in repentance. Repentance is that great change of mind in which we come to agree with God in His assessments, first and foremost of the sin in our own hearts and lives. Much like Isaiah, when he found himself at the foot of the throne of the Most High, when we encounter God, we cry out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Is. 6:5)
"The principle thing meant in the Scriptures by the fear of God, is a holy solicitude or dread lest we should offend God by sinning against him. Now, if a man do truly fear to offend God, and if he habitually dreads the thought of sinning against him, this will surely tend to his avoiding sin against him. That which men are afraid of they will shun....Fearing God and observing to do all his commandments, are joined together as necessarily arising the one from the other....And in any person whatever, just so far as the fear of God reigns, just so far will it lead its possessor to avoid sin and to aim to be holy." (Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits.)
"For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Pet. 4:17-18)

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:19-20)

And yet, one can't help but wonder, where there is dread, how can there be love. I'm not inclined to love with wholehearted abandon that which I fear, that which holds the power to destroy me. And yet that is what God requires: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5) The thing that holds me back from loving what I fear is my sin. My horror comes from knowing, like Isaiah, that I am unclean. If I face God in this condition I will be lost, undone. The love and willing servitude cannot come until, like Isaiah, my "guilt is taken away" and my "sin atoned for". (Is. 6:7)
"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb. 9:11-14)
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need." Heb. 4:16

And so now, through the sacrifice of Christ which cleanses us from all sin, we find boldness to run to Him rather than away. We find ourselves hiding from His wrath within the safety of the Rock He has cleft for us. Rather than hiding from Him - we hide in Him. Our worst nightmare has become, through Christ, our place of our greatest comfort and rest.

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (Psalm 34:8-11)
"Does it strike you as strange that we should be encouraged to fear and hope at the same time and in the same person? 'The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.' (Psalm 147:11) Do you hope in the one you fear and fear the one you hope in? It's usually the other way around: if we fear a person, we hope that someone else will come and help us. But here we are supposed to fear the one we hope in and hope in the one we fear. What does this mean? "I think it means that we should let the experience of hope penetrate and transform the experience of fear. In other words, the kind of fear that we should have toward God is whatever is left of fear when we have a sure hope in the midst of it...The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. And in that place of refuge we say, 'This is amazing, this is terrible, this is incredible power; Oh, the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God himself! Oh, what a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God without hope, without a Savior! Better to have a millstone tied around my neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea than to offend against this God! What a wonderful privilege to know the favor of this God in the midst of his power! " And so we get an idea of how we feel both hope and fear at the same time. Hope turns fear into a trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it earnest and profound. The terrors of God make the pleasures of his people intense. The fireside fellowship is all the sweeter when the storm is howling outside the cottage." John Piper, from The Pleasures of God.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dire Warnings Against Murmuring (The evils of a murmuring spirit, part 4)

The following is the next installment in Tim Challies' series Reading the Classics Together - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I'll try to make each post readable on its own, however I highly encourage your own study of this Puritan classic by Jeremiah Burroughs.

(Chapter 9, part two)

“The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit - concluded"

The remainder of Burroughs' lessons lead us to quake in fear of the Lord - to remember that our "God is a consuming fire" (Heb.12:29). His remaining points are downright frightening, so believers, keep in mind we are His children. His warnings are given to us out of love - and so are His chastenings. If we do find ourselves suffering repercussions for our discontent, it is God's way of teaching us and developing Christ-like character in us. Here is what could be called "tough love", but in its most biblical form:

"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." 1 Cor. 11: 31-32

For background, and a richer understanding of our author's points, I highly recommend beginning with a fresh reading of Numbers 14: 1-45, which narrates for us Israel's response to the report brought back the the spies who had ventured into the land of Canaan. As you read, keep in mind that these are the same folks who had witnessed the plagues of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea on dry land, were fed and watered miraculously in the wilderness, and were led about night and day by the visible evidence of the presence of God.

Now consider the testimony of the historical Psalm 106 regarding the events of Numbers 14:

"Then they despised the pleasant land;

They did not believe His word,

But complained in their tents,

And did not heed the voice of the LORD.

Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them,

To overthrow them in the wilderness..." (Ps. 106:24-26)

IX. "There is a great deal of danger in the sin of discontent, for it highly provokes the wrath of God."

"A discontented, murmuring fit of yours may cost you your lives. You see how it provokes God; there is more evil in it than you were aware of. It may cost you your lives, and therefore look to yourselves, and learn to be humbled at the very beginnings of such disorders in the heart."
These are terrifying words! I can hear the objection rising in my own heart: "But that's the Old Testament! What about grace?" And then to myself I must preach the truth, "Well, yes, but so were they!" No one has ever been saved by any other means than grace, through faith. That is one of the points of that great chapter Eleven of Hebrews. And that is one of the things we also learn from Romans 9-11: "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work..." (Rom. 11:3-6) Salvation has always been by the grace of God, through faith. And the evidence of this faith in the lives of individuals has always been seen in their actions. Belief has always been recognized by the obedient behavior which flows from it.

Salvation has always been by the grace of God. So if those under the Old Covenant, who saw only the shadow of what was to come were held to such account, what excuse then is there for us who have the Substance? (Col. 3:17) Grace, then, is by no means a license for us to murmur in disbelief with impunity. On the contrary - we who are under the New Covenant have been issued this warning:

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that no one of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.....Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb. 3:12-19; 4:11-13)
And keeping that in mind, let us return to our text, "And mark what follows after, 'I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel.' You murmur, and maybe others do not hear you, it may be that you do not speak at all, or but half-words; yet God hears the language of your murmuring hearts, and those muttering speeches, and those half-words that come from you."

Burroughs then goes further to explain that when we complain against those authorities God has placed over us in our lives we are complaining (albeit indirectly) against God. God takes it seriously, and personally, when we complain against our employers, our husbands, police, and even our own government and national rulers:

"...the congregation had murmured and they murmured only against Moses and Aaron... and that was against God's ministers. It was against God but not so directly; if you murmur against those whom God makes instruments, because you have not got everything that you would have, against the Parliament, or such and such who are public instruments, it is against God."
And in saying this, Burroughs speaks with all the authority of Scripture behind him: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment...Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed." (Rom 13:1-2; 5-7) Is the way you think and speak about your government respectful? Would you speak to your husband, or boss, or parent in the manner that you speak or think of your President? Are you resisting your authority figures, or willingly subjecting yourselves to them? Do you pay your taxes grudgingly, or with the same willing heart with which you pay your pastor? Would you want to be spoken of and treated in the way that you speak of and behave toward those who stand in authority over you; or are you murmuring against God and His ministers in your life?
"...you must not think to please yourselves in your murmuring discontentedness, and think that no evil shall come of it: 'Therefore he lifted up his hand against them to overthrow them.' You who are discontented lift up your hearts against God, and you cause God to lift up his hand against you."
I like to think that no harm will come from my silent griping, but I'm deceiving myself. My silent complaints, my inward grumbling, if not repented of will lead to repercussions. Eventually they will lead to sin so open that the truth of what is in my heart will become plain - to me and anyone looking on. Then the sin will need to be dealt with openly, in whatever way God sees fit. And so, when we grumble or witness grumbling we should rush to prayer:
"...it would be a very good thing for you who are a godly wife, when you see your husband come home and start murmuring because things are not going according to his desire, to go to prayer, and say: 'Lord, pardon the sin of my husband.' And similarly for a husband to go to God in prayer, falling down and beseeching him that wrath may not come out against his family for the murmuring of his wife."
X. "There is a great curse of God upon murmuring and discontent; so far as it prevails in on who is wicked, it has the curse of God upon it."

"All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statues that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the LORD with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things..." Deut. 28:45-47
"God here threatens to bring his curse upon them, so as to make them a wonder and a sign to others. Why? Because they served not the Lord with joyfulness of heart, therefore God would bring such a curse upon them as would make them a wonder to all that were about them. Oh, how far are you, then, who have a murmuring heart, from serving the Lord with joyfulness!"

"Many men and women in discontented moods are a mad sort of people, and though you may please yourselves with such a mad kind of behavior, you should know that it is a curse of God upon men to be given up to a kind of madness for evils which they imagine have come upon them, and which they fear."

This may seem an odd statement on the surface, but anyone who's ever sunk into the downward spiral of worry, fear, and even paranoia of everything that possibly go wrong, will see the truth in it. That is a cursed mental place.

XI. "There is much of the spirit of Satan in a murmuring spirit."
"The Devil is the most discontented creature in the world, he is the proudest creature that is and the most discontented creature, and the most dejected creature. Now, therefore, so much discontent as you have, so much of the spirit of Satan you have."
We Christians are accustomed to think of Satan as a liar, but seldom do we consider his discontent. He was created by God as a lovely and gifted angelic being, yet he became dissatisfied with his position and sought to resist God's authority over him and recreate himself. This resistance to what is right and true is really at the heart of his lies. Discontent with the Truth, he seeks to invent his own version of reality.

So, if a person's life is characterized by discontent, just as if his life is characterized by lies, it is an indication that person is not God's child but the devil's. And so we must examine ourselves. As Christians the degree to which we are discontent is an indicator of the degree to which we are still allowing ourselves to be ruled by our flesh and the evil one. It indicates as well our ongoing need to have our minds renewed by the word of God. (See Eph. 4: 17-24 and Rom. 12:1-16)

IV. "If you have a murmuring spirit, you must have disquiet all the days of your life."
"God in just judgment will let things fall out on purpose to vex those who have vexing spirits and discontented hearts; and therefore it is necessary that they should live disquiet all their days."
Think back on the fate of those who grumbled in the wilderness. They spent the rest of their lives doomed to live in the very condition they complained against. (Num. 14:34-25) Consider also those referred to in Romans 1 who refused to acknowledge God and be thankful. They were given over to lives characterized by unrighteousness, immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness, gossip, backbiting....I can't think of a more apt description of miserable and disquieted lives.

XIII. "God may justly withdraw his care of you, and his protection over you, seeing God cannot please you in his administrations."
"What if God should say to any of you, If my care over you does not please you, then take care of yourselves, if my protection over you will not please you, then protect yourselves?...if you are those who belong to God, there is a protection of God over you, and a care of God. If God were to say 'Well, you shall not have the benefit of my protection any longer, and I will take no further care of you' would not this be a most dreadful judgment of God from Heaven upon you?"
That is a truly terrifying prospect. And lest you think that the God of the New Covenant does not give over his people in this way, consider 1 Cor. 5:4-5, and 1 Cor. 11: 27-34.

There is a tendency among Christians to look at the people of Israel and wonder "Why wouldn't they ever learn? They had the pillar of God's presence with them everywhere, night and day. They had Moses, glowing before them. They had manna every morning, and water supplied miraculously every time it was needed!" And yet we are so often guilty of the same murmuring as they. We have Christ, crucified and resurrected - sitting at the right hand of the Father mediating for us. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and the tables of the law of Christ engraved upon the soft flesh of our no-longer-stony hearts. As the letter to the Hebrews emphasizes throughout, we have the substance from which every one of their shadows fell. Everything we have is better. We have so much more than they did, and we have the words of warning from Christ that "to whom much is given, much will be required." The great sin of Israel was unbelief. Their unbelief manifested itself in discontent, complaining, murmuring and grumbling against God and authority. When we, in like manner, complain against God and authority, we are as guilty as Israel - guiltier.
"Now then, my brethren, put all these points together, those we spoke of in the last chapter, and these points that have been added now in this chapter, for setting out a murmuring and discontented spirit. Oh, what an ugly face has this sin of murmuring and discontentedness! Oh, what cause is there that we should lay our hands upon our hearts, and go away and be humbled before the Lord because of this!"

The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit - Part 3

The following is the next installment in Tim Challies' series Reading the Classics Together - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I'll try to make each post readable on its own, however I highly encourage your own study of this Puritan classic by Jeremiah Burroughs.

(Chapter 9, part one)


“The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit - concluded"


In this chapter we conclude our study of the many good reasons why we should absolutely hate the sins of murmuring and discontent. I believe that any person who can read this chapter in its entirety and not feel convicted at some point is either not paying attention, or not a new creature in Christ.

VI. “By murmuring you undo your prayers, for it is exceedingly contrary to the prayers that you make to God.”
"When you come to pray to God, you acknowledge his sovereignty over you, you come there to profess yourselves to be at God's disposal. What do you pray for unless you acknowledge that you are at his disposal? Unless you will stand as it were at his disposal, never come to petition him. If you will come to petition him and yet will be your own carver you go contrary to your prayers....when you have murmuring and discontented hearts, you forget your prayers, you forget what you have prayed for."
According to Burroughs the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:25-34) teaches us that we should really be praying only for each day’s provision, and to be content with that when we have it. It also teaches that we should be praying to see Him hallowed and His will accomplished in our hearts and lives, and to be content with that as well. These things are what we need for our physical and spiritual well being.
"Where did Christ teach us to pray, Lord, give us provision for so long a time? No, but if we have bread for this day, Christ would have us content."
I don't know about you, but I am prone to worry when I receive a bill in the mail and don’t see the money in the bank to pay it right away, even though it's due date is yet a ways off. I’m happiest when I see a surplus in my account. Only then do I feel that I can rest. This feeling betrays the fact that I wasn't really at rest when it wasn’t there. I like to have a surplus, because then I can put my trust in what I can see and so not have to trust God, who I can't see. This tells me I don’t always trust God as much as I trust money in the bank.


VII. Murmuring causes at least five evil effects upon the discontented heart.

"By murmuring and discontent … you come to lose a great deal of time.”
When you are alone you should spend your time in holy meditation, but you are spending your time in discontented thoughts.”

Time spent murmuring is time wasted that was meant to be spent glorifying God!
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete." 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let you reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4: 4-8
And so, when I find myself grumbling about...let's say, for instance, my aging appearance, I will instead determine to be thankful to the Lord for letting me live to know Him and to be on this earth long enough to have aged thus far. I will remind myself that it is God who formed and shaped me and it’s wrong to grumble about His work. I will remind myself that He made me for His glory, not my own. He is the one to be admired for eternity and by all creation, not me. I will remind myself of what He finds beautiful, ie: “the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” 1 Peter 3: 4-6

Discontent "unfits you for duty."
"When you should be enjoying communion with God, you are distracted in your thoughts about the trial that has befallen you, whereas had you but a quiet spirit, though great trials befell you, yet they would never hinder you in the performance of any duty.”
This is a very high ideal, impossible it would seem. Yet if we long for Christlikeness, this is something we must continue to strive for even though we often fail. For Christ faced unthinkable trials and yet fulfilled everything required of Him. And there are others who've achieved great success in this regard. I see them in Scripture, and in church history, and even in some people I’ve known. It is God’s plan for His people that they become more effective as a result of hardships, not less. Consider James 1: 2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Certainly you can remember a time when, as a believer, when you have experienced great peace and been able to function in the service of the Lord in spite of terrible circumstances. If you were able to do it once, by God's grace you will be able to do it again.

"Murmuring leads to many wicked risings and resolutions of the heart."
"If the Lord had suffered you to have done what you had sometimes thought to do, in a discontented fit, what wretched misery you would have brought upon yourselves! Oh, it was a mercy of God that stopped you; had not God stopped you, but let you go on when you thought to help yourselves this way and the other way, oh, it would have been ill with you."
This is a call to take an honest look at ourselves and our own capacities for evil, and to be humbled. It is also an occasion to give thanks to God for preventing us from carrying out all the wicked schemes we’ve concocted when in the throws of "a discontented fit" (what an appropriate description!) Remember what you’re capable of lest you think too highly of yourself!

Discontent leads to unthankfulness.
"Unthankfulness is an evil and a wicked effect, which comes from discontent. The Scripture ranks unthankfulness among very great sins. Men and women, who are discontented, though they enjoy many mercies from God, yet they are thankful for none of them, for this is the vile nature of discontent, to lessen every mercy of God. It makes those mercies they have from God as nothing to them, because they cannot have what they want."
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be know about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..." Romans 1:18-22 (Based upon Romans 1:28-29, we could also rightly say that unthankfulness also leads to murmuring/complaining. And so it becomes a vicious cycle.)

Burroughs quotes Luther as saying,
"This is the rhetoric of the Spirit of God, to extenuate evil things, and to amplify good things: if a cross comes to make the cross but little, but if there is a mercy to make the mercy great." But the Devil goes quite contrary, says Luther, his retoric is quite otherwise, he lessens God's mercies, and amplifies evil things....Thus the rhetoric of Satan lessens God's mercies, and increases afflictions.
It is this kind of thinking which is a main cause of depression, discouragement, and other dissatisfied ways of thinking. Like with Eve, the devil's goal is to get us to focus on the thing we do not, can not, or should not have to the exclusion of caring any more or being thankful for the many blessings which we already do have.

Murmuring "causes shiftings of spirit".
Those who murmur and are discontented are liable to temptations to shift for themselves in sinful and ungodly ways; discontent is the ground of shifting courses and unlawful ways.”
Many ancient and modern sinful deeds have been brought about by discontent. For some biblical examples, consider Gen. 3: 1-6, where Eve ate the forbidden fruit, as did Adam, and plunged humanity into sin and death; or Gen. 4: 1-8, where Cain envied his brother and committed history’s first murder; or Gen. 25: 29-34 where Esau despised his birthright and sold it to his brother for a bowl of stew. Or, consider something closer to home, our own sinful acts committed by us in our own lives as a result of our own discontent. How many evil "shiftings" we might have avoided if we'd only learned to be content!

VIII. Murmuring “is a foolish sin”.
“There is a great deal of folly, extreme folly, in a discontented heart... It takes away the present comfort of what you have, because you have not something that you would have.”
You cannot enjoy what God has blessed you with because you’re so focused on what you don’t have. You might as well not have any of the other blessings because you refuse to enjoy them.
“By all your discontent you cannot help yourselves, you cannot get anything by it.”
Consider Matthew 6: 25-34 for a moment. We don’t often think of it this way, but worry is an opposite of contentment. As I mentioned earlier, I am inclined to worry about getting the bills paid. I’m often not content to wait for God’s provision, which has always come in due time, because I want it now. I don’t want to have to trust God to bring it in time. I want security I can see right now. Take a moment to meditate on this concept of discontent as the source of anxiety. Select one of the things about which you're prone to worry and see if you can’t make the connection between that and the related area of discontent in your heart.

“There are commonly many foolish attitudes that a discontented heart is guilty of. They carry themselves foolishly towards God and towards men.”
In other words, discontented people are prone to foolish behavior.
“Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes...If God gives the man or woman who is discontented for want of some good thing, that good thing before they are humbled for their discontent, such a man or woman can have no comfort from the mercy, but it will be rather an evil than a good to them.”
Here Burroughs’ give an example of how he preferred to pray for someone who desires something to the point of discontent: "Lord, keep this thing from them, till you shall be pleased to humble their hearts for their discontent; let not them have the mercy till they come to be humbled for their discontent over the want of it, for if they have it before that time they will have it without any blessing." I can't help think how humbling it would have been to go to brother Burroughs with a prayer request stemming from discontent!
Murmuring and discontent “makes our affliction a great deal worse than otherwise it would be”.
“It in no way removes our afflictions…a discontented heart is a proud heart…”
This statement cuts right to the heart of the matter. Discontent is an attitude problem. It comes from a proud heart. If we are discontent it is because we have put ourselves and our desires over and above God and His purposes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Meanderings

Perhaps you've not yet encountered the YouTube video being passed around claiming that Jesus literally named Barack Obama as the Anti-Christ. But if you have you'll learn with further investigation the wisdom of Proverbs 18:17:
"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."
If you do choose to watch the video for yourself you'll see a fairly good example of what trouble can arise when a strong presupposition/predetermined bias meets a Strong's Concordance. The English speaking world has many first rate scholars of the original Biblical languages. We need to recognize our limitations and not wade in over our heads into things we really do not understand and will never understand without undertaking years of intensive and focused study. Let the experts be the experts that God has called them to be. Let them be the ones to sound such alarms - if indeed there is something hidden in the original languages that should alarm us.

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Those of us who are Christians bear a heavy responsibility to speak only the truth, and then to speak it only in love. Let us never be found guilty of slander, libel, or rumor-mongering, not even in the interests of our political views . Please remember, if people hear us spreading lies and misinformation in worldly matters they will have no reason to listen or believe us when we try to speak to them of heavenly ones. We must not let our political behavior discredit our witness to the Gospel of truth.

Here is a great resource for checking to see if that bit of info you're considering passing on to others is truthful, or if in fact it might be slanderous or libelous. This site, from The Annenberg Public Policy Center, examines the truthfulness of the claims of those to the left AND the right of the political spectrum.

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It's very easy to get so caught up in our day to day lives, our personal stories, and our national dramas, that we forget there are entire nations, millions upon millions of human beings created in the image of God, right now undergoing unimaginable suffering with little or no hope for help from their own governments or anyone else's. Here is one such story, this one from the Democratic Republic of Congo (may we remember them in our prayers): The world's most depressing story.

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If you've followed my links thus far, you are no doubt ready for some words of hope, comfort and encouragement. And I've got just the thing.

In Christ Alone...

(Thanks and apologies to whichever of my friends passed this on to me. Thanks for sharing it, apologies that I've forgotten which of you sent it my way.)

___________________________

And to end on a much lighter note, check out this story (which includes the recipe) of what is reported to be the best pizza ever. Recipes are also provided for the two runners up. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Still feelin' cheesy

I just can't stop thinking about cheese! Okay girls, here's one you can realistically make in your own kitchen:



And this is just a beautiful look at how cheese is produced in a more industrial setting. You'll wish you were there:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gettin' Cheesy...It's Saturday Science



If you enjoyed that, listen to this interview with Liz Thorpe, author of The Cheese Chronicles, and Vice President of Murray's Cheese New York, New York.

I'm getting hungry, how 'bout you?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Meanderings

"Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God..." (Rev. 20:4) Thank God there are still Christians on this planet who believe the Gospel is worth dying for and places where it is recognized to be a matter of life and death that it is.
(HT to John Piper)


The unsung sacrifice of hymnwriter Isaac Watts.


HT goes to Gumpy.


I've happened upon another resource to aid in forming political conclusions and opinions based upon facts, rather than fiction or fear. Falsehoods and misrepresentations from both the left and the right political wings are put to the test here.

Getting enough vitamin D? When I was a child I used to hear stories of kids with a disease called rickets, caused by a deficiency of vitamin D. You don't hear much about that anymore, especially since the fortification of milk began, but that could be changing.

D.A. Carson on inerrancy:




I've been known to write about the death of grammar instruction in schools. But there's another rich aspect of language, communication and culture facing potentially imminent demise I'd not given much thought to before: the death of handwriting.



Encouragement to get the most from your reading:

HT to Josh.