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The Backside Blessings of Blogging

Like the businessman whose only measure of success is the bottom line or the pastor who only looks at how many people are in his church’s pews, bloggers can also be one-dimensional in gauging the importance of their work. They can see how many hits or Facebook likes a post receives, and then weigh their success or failure. Also, in the speed of light nature of the internet, bloggers can feel that yesterday’s blog post is already long forgotten and grow discouraged. That is why it is helpful to see some of the hidden blessings of blogging that often are overlooked.

In pointing out a few of these, perhaps this post is written just to encourage other bloggers including my fellow GenRef Gents. Or maybe those thinking about starting a blog, but hesitant to do so, will find some needed stimulation here. Or though I had actually begun working on this post before I read Tim Challies’ article “A Call for Plodding Bloggers” last week, one could consider this article as a further Amen to his call to keep on keeping on. Regardless, after blogging over a number of years, I have enjoyed at least these five blessings in so doing.

Thoughts are clarified. As the old saying goes, “Over the […]

Browse Worthy: Bathroom Battles

I never thought I’d have a blog post with this title.

With three children sharing a bathroom at home, we do sometimes have minor skirmishes in this area. Yet they are nothing like the battles going on in our culture. These conflicts cause us now to pause every time we are outside a public restroom door about what to do when we need to go.

Here are some perspectives to help.

Will You Use Target’s Transgender Bathroom?

John Piper packs some good theology into this article about not following the agenda of this world, but then does give his direct answer:

So, in answer to the last part of the question, Would you, John Piper, use a gender open restroom even if it says men on the door? My answer is, If I were there and if I had to, I would — just like I would stop on the highway if I had to. But I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. And the reason I wouldn’t is because I want there to be a small act of protest and life consistency that may have no impact at all on the powers that make such decisions, but that keep my conscience clear and acknowledge God in […]

Answering This Generation’s Question of Essential Identity

Each news cycle brings with it one more saga about sexual and gender identity. North Carolina establishing bathroom laws against transgender usage. The mayor of New York City restricting travel to the state of North Carolina to boycott this action. The Obama administration issuing a directive late last week mandating public schools and other institutions receiving certain federal grants to give transgender students access to bathrooms or face the risk of the loss of funds or even lawsuits. The lieutenant governor of Texas declaring they will forfeit the funds rather than comply. As Trevin Wax, Russell Moore, and other are pointing out, the ramifications of these actions on society and the church are great.

At the heart of this issue and related ones is the fundamental question of identity. Repeatedly, when proponents of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights speak, they use the terminology of self-identification. This generation is trying to discover itself and, in the spirit of this postmodern age, looks within to find the answer.

The most well-known example of this inward-turning search for identity is seen in Bruce Jenner. Not long ago he self-identified as a woman, began dressing then went through procedures to become such, and now calls himself Caitlyn. He appeared as […]

Touching Elisha’s Bones

Remember the story surrounding the death and burial of Elisha, the great prophet of Israel?  The one who possessed a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and who directly opposed the wickedness and false worship of his day, had recently died and been laid to rest.  When some Israelites were in the process of burying another man, the funeral was interrupted by yet another attack, courtesy of their neighboring enemies the Moabites. In their haste to get away, the pall bearers quickly tossed the dead man into the still-opened tomb of Elisha.  The Scriptures say that as soon as this dead man “touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet” (see II Kings 13:20-21).

I do not recall who first told me to think this way, but similarly we in the modern church need to “touch the bones” of godly ones in whom the Spirit of God clearly manifested himself. We should study their lives, read their works, and be led by them into the Scriptures.  When this study leads us to come in contact with the same God they knew, we can be revived and stand on our feet ready to meet the issues that confront the church […]

Worms and Fire

Like growing, unsightly graffiti, ugly whitish-gray sacks have been developing in the branches all along the small trees in the woods running along the back of our property. These webs are the homes of newly hatched tent caterpillars or tent worms as they are commonly called.  Their eggs were laid last fall by the Lackey moth. The caterpillars’ scientific name of Malacosoma sounds like the cancer they are. They emerge to feed from their tents on the leaves all around them and then return to digest their food. They can defoliate large sections of their host tree.

My wife, who shudders when she looks out the window and thinks of bags holding hundreds of worms hanging in the trees, kindly asked me to dispose of them. So I took trimmers and a bucket into the woods with me and got to work. Systematically, I cut the branches containing the tents and placed them in the bucket. Each time I filled it, I emptied the bucket into the fire pit on top of a large pile of dead branches and twigs previously placed there.

When the last sack was cut out and placed on the pile, I lit the newspaper tucked in the bottom of the stack of tinder. […]

Help from John Owen on Not Entering into Temptation

In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was praying about his upcoming crucifixion, he told his disciples in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  We could say, as John Owen reminds us in Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, there was never a time those words were uttered in a climate more conducive to their obedience.

After all, Jesus had just celebrated the first Lord’s Supper with them. He has been teaching them for hours straight about living in relationship to the Triune God by abiding in Christ, praying to the Father, and receiving the help of the Holy Spirit. He himself had just told them them about the solemnity of the night, as he had revealed that he would be betrayed and delivered over to death. Peter had just affirmed how he would never forsake Jesus even if everyone else did.  Jesus had shared with them how sorrowful and heavy his heart was, deeply grieved to the point of death, so they should have been moved emotionally. Jesus was a stone’s throw away praying fervently that he might be delivered from the cup of the crucifixion.

Yet a short period later Jesus found them sleeping on duty and asked, “So […]

Do Justice

In mercy ministry, often Micah 6:8 is used for motivation and guidance for obvious reasons.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

So many churches and relief agencies want to be merciful and give every indication of being those who “love kindness.” But what about that justice part?

The liberal gospel of the last century has fueled several generations of mercy work in ecclesiastical, missions, relief work, and government quarters. Generally speaking, this influence has created a mercy paradigm practiced in the West that has resulted in such things as aid without accountability, food without thought instead of food for thought, and works that make us feel good but do not help people become good.

However, one cannot be one dimensional in mercy work. To truly help others out of the pit of poverty, a triple-corded “justice-doing, mercy-loving, humble-walking” rope must be offered to them.

In this “I-just-want-to-be-loved” age, that justice strand can be the most difficult one to cultivate and intertwine with the others. What are some ways “doing justice” can be encouraged in mercy ministry? Here are five ideas.

Preserve initiative. Often mercy ministries dim the drive […]

In the Twinkle of an Eye

Last Saturday afternoon was a warm, sunny day, full of promise that spring was finally here. Spencer, Miriam, and I were putting up the awning over our back porch, the threat of heavy snows that would damage it now gone and the need for a place of cooling shade growing. With the awning half-draped over the frame, we were enjoying the weather and laughing at our miscues in trying to put the heavy canvas in its proper position.

I left for a moment to get some needed wrenches from the tool shed to finish the job. As I returned, behind the part of the awning still hanging down I could hear that Miriam was upset. She was repeatedly saying, “Oh, no! I’m so sorry!” Thinking somehow Spencer had been injured, I hurried around the green canvas. Spencer was unharmed but stood there stunned as he looked at his mother. Miriam was on the phone with grief, pain, and tears upon her face.

She was hearing the news that our brother-in-law, Jon, had died from a motorcycle accident that afternoon.

How quickly the lives of those we love have changed. Jon was a faithful believer in Christ, husband and father, and servant in his church and community. […]

Avoiding Hyper-Calvinism as We Preach

Could it be that, in heart and practice, many of us in Reformed churches are not preaching evangelistically because we allow our Calvinism to bind us rather than propel us as it should? Perhaps we can learn from a controversy in Spurgeon’s time.

When it comes to controversies and Charles Spurgeon, the conflict he is most known for was the “Down-Grade Controversy” toward the end of his ministry. The Down-Grade was a battle against late Puritan ministers who began sliding toward liberal doctrines, philosophical and moralistic preaching, and less than holy practices. This controversy received its name from Spurgeon who warned: “We are going down hill at breakneck speed.”

Yet, as Iain Murray makes known in his book Spurgeon v. the Hyper Calvinists, Spurgeon faced a lesser known but equally dangerous controversy. In his early ministry he was attacked by reformed ministers because they believed he was offering the gospel too freely.

These ministers taught that in preaching the gospel care should be taken that sermons spoke only to the elect. Thus, they preached (and taught others to do the same) that when people are called to respond to the gospel, they are not to be called to believe in Christ directly but rather they are to ask for faith […]

Podcast Recommendation: Christopher Watkin on Jacques Derrida

Usually Austin does the podcast reviews around here. Also, philosophy is far from my strong suit. So I am not recommending the following to usurp Austin’s place or try to show you how smart I am. I just want to recommend a podcast outside my typical reading or listening disciplines that I recently enjoyed.

Reformed Forum conducted a three-part interview with Christopher Watkin on the influential French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who is one of the fathers of postmodernistic thought and is perhaps most known for formulating what became known as deconstruction. Dr. Watkin, a Reformed believer, was fascinating to listen to because of the depth of knowledge he has of Derrida and the way he was able to explain Derrida’s thought to those unfamiliar with his writings (all done with politeness and a beautiful accent, I might add!). But what really drew me was how Watkin critiqued Derrida in a gracious way that showed his brilliance yet also revealed his shortcomings under the light of Scripture. He was able to describe Derrida’s points of contact with truth and reality yet describe how they veered away from the revelation of the Triune God.  For me, it not only taught me lessons in philosophy but how to engage unbelief in a winsome […]