Some Personal Proverbs


The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    Love and Hate


    A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

    The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

    A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

    A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

    His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

    And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

    Sentences (Again)

      
    A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

    Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

    • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
    • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
    • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
    • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
    • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
    • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
    • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
    • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

    Happy weekend, all!

    His Good Authority

      
    It’s surprisingly easy to fall in to what Proverbs calls “folly.”  Foolishness.  A lack of wisdom.  Incorrect thinking and feeling and behavior.  The heart and the flesh love folly, and I know from experience that my own flesh is no different from anyone else’s in that respect.  

    One of the marks of folly is to mock good things while defending twisted ones.  Unbelievers do it all the time, and even Spirit-wrought Christians can fall into it.

    For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

    1 Peter 4:3-4

    O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 
    Galatians 3:1

    Last night I saw something on Facebook.  

    I know, I know, how many positive things start with that sentence?  Subtle rebuke taken.  

    But nonetheless, here’s what it was:  A graphic from some supposed Christians (I can only take them at their word) mocking what they perceived as the Bible’s inconsistencies on the teaching of marriage.  They apparently believe that while they are “Christian,” they are not obliged to follow the Bible’s teaching on marriage because it is, in their minds, hopelessly inconsistent.  To them, the Bible is written by people making their best efforts to talk about God, not by men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (which is what I believe, because it’s what Peter tells us in the New Testament).  They laid down this slick, well-made, intended-to-be-witty graphic/chart in the context of an interchange about the sinfulness of homosexual activity.  They, as Christians, were defending the goodness of same sex activity and same sex “marriage,” and thought the graphic playfully exposed the Bible as a slightly  misguided book just like any old slightly misguided book.  
    I’ve seen that sort of approach before, and you might’ve seen it, too.  I’ve seen it from unbelievers and, sadly, I’ve seen it from those who claim faith in Christ:  Playfully ribbing the Bible in the defense of some thing the God of the Bible calls sinful.  

    It’s a mark of spiritual blindness.  It is a sign of a prideful and foolish heart.  

    And in this context, in the conversation about same-sex intercourse and romance, I want to be as clear as I can be:  The Word of God is a sure hope of truth and salvation, while sodomy kills souls, wounds hearts, and damages bodies.  Christ gives life, sexual immorality brings death.  Mocking the Bible to defend homosexuality is like mocking a doctor to defend pancreatic cancer.  

    We have only one certain authority to rest morality on.  If we doubt or disdain God’s Word, we have nothing higher to appeal to.   Nothing stronger than human reason or speech to ground our ethics in.  Person A says God told him homosexual activity is good and permissible, Person B says God told him it is sinful and deadly.  Who’s right?  Does majority vote decide morality?  If so, how can we say Nazi Germany or the Antebellum South were sinful?  The majority vote in both cases was in, and Jewish persecution and African slavery were deemed ethically acceptable.  If we say the Word of Christ isn’t the moral appeal court, how do we say those cultures and governments were doing anything objectively evil?  We could say we don’t like what we did, but how do we authoritatively stand in judgment against it?  How do stand your intellectually consistent ground against any evil if you’ve said the final definer of “evil” is human judgment?  The guy you’re trying to stand against will just tell you his judgment landed him in a different spot than yours.  So out of the way, please.  He has a TV to steal.  And God told him it was OK.  

    But the truth is that there is an objective reality to good and evil.  Some things are truly beautiful and good and others are truly detestable and harmful.  And they are defined by the One through whom all things were created:  Jesus.  He has revealed them in the Old Testament He quoted and called Scripture and in the New Testament that records His words and those of His chosen apostles.  Those words, all of them, are theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” according to the Apostle Paul. They tell us who God is, what He blesses, what He loves, and what He wants for us.  

    The Bible is God’s good authority given to a world made to reflect His beauty and glory.  

    We mock it, and so mock Him, at our own peril.

    After all, He tells us woe to those who call good “evil” and evil “good” for a reason. 

    He’s told us what they are.   

    The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.  So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.’

    Numbers 15:37-40

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God,  for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

    Isaiah 55:6-11

    60 Seconds On Heresy Hunting

      
    They’re far less frequent than the encounters I’ll have with Christians who don’t seem to care enough about truth, but from time to time I’ll end up observing (or embroiled in) a conversation with a Christian who seems to enjoy pointing out the errors of others.  Who seems to love the fight.  Truth be told, I’ve probably been that Christian at certain moments.  

    And, since it was fresh on my mind as I wait on Sarah and the kids at the mall, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts on the professional heresy-hunter, the guy (or girl) who thoroughly enjoys the hunt:

    • A mature Christian won’t run from conflict if the moment calls for it. An immature Christian seeks it out.  
    • Heaven will be boring to you if you like fights more than reconciliation.
    • It’s not discernment to call every doctrinal disagreement “heresy.”  It’s actually a lack of discernment.  You’re not a discerning person if you’re unable to tell a rainstorm from a hurricane.  Someone with good discernment is able to distinguish true doctrine from false doctrine, but he is also able to distinguish deadly errors from non-deadly ones, and is able to react to those different types of errors proportionately.  He is also able to tell the difference between what he has good Biblical grounds to be certain on and what he has simply drawn out from the Bible as the most likely conclusion.  I am certain on my Gospel.  I am not certain on my eschatology.  
    • Conviction about doctrine should have as its primary aims love for God and love for man, not love for doctrine.  I want to be deeply invested in justification by grace through faith alone, credobaptism, and the second coming of Christ because I love the triune God and the people He’s made.  I don’t want to be firm in my doctrines because I love my doctrines, and then have to have somebody remind me to leave the study so I can go talk to people or take Lord’s Supper. 

    I love truth because I love the One who is truth.  

    Happy weekend, all!

      10 Things You Might Learn In College

         

      1) Value what’s trendy over what’s true.

      2) There are no absolutes.  Every point of view is valid.  Unless you feel really strongly about something.  Then you can act like there are absolutes. 

      3) The people who wrote college textbooks now are smarter than any and every human being who has ever lived.

      4) Never forget to mock the people we’ve told you are dumb.   It’s good for them. And it’s good for the planet.  Like recycling.

      5) Cool your jets with the truly independent thinking.   When we say “independent,” we mean “like us.”

      6) You do not need to actually go anywhere or do anything to be an expert.  Reading and talking and blogging will suffice.

      7) No one has the right to tell you anything you do is wrong.  But you can and should tell other people about how wrong it is not to agree with what we’ve taught you.

      8) Education will fix everything that’s wrong with people.  Except that there’s not actually anything wrong with people because people are basically good and who am I to decide what’s “wrong?”   So society, actually.   Yeah, education will fix what’s wrong with society.  That’s what we meant.  There’s nothing wrong with me and there’s nothing wrong with people, but there is something wrong with society.  And if we get people to go to college we’ll fix society.  Boom.  Checkmate.

      9) What I just said will cost you $9,000.  A PELL Grant will cover a hundred of it.

      10) Always remember that we made you what you are.  If you ever start to doubt what we’ve told you, breathe deeply, look at the University sticker on your bumper, and write a check payable to ____________ Alumni Relations.

      Cam Newton, a Sports Show, and Humanity

        

      Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’   So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

       From Genesis 1

      Imago Dei (‘image of God’): A theological term, applied uniquely to humans, which denotes the symbolical relation between God and humanity. 

      I’ve been listening to a lot of a certain sports radio show I like, because the host is funny and creative and original.  But almost every day he brings up racial disparities or issues, and often takes a very antagonistic and (I think) self-righteous tone.  I like hearing from people I disagree with or who have a perspective different from mine, and I otherwise enjoy him, so I continue to listen.  But after not being able to quite put my finger on why his angle was spiritually bugging me, I finally had a thought yesterday:

      This guy seems to only take race into account.  

      And I kept thinking, as I drove home for lunch.  

      The secular worldview has to identify people by race, sexual attraction, gender, or economic strata.  It must classify people in tangible or political or physiological groups.  It’s bound to think of people as Asian or poor or rich or oppressed, because it has no room for the categories of saint and sinner, penitent and proud.  

      A mind that doesn’t take God into account when analyzing people will usually only weigh material things.  

      So, where the Bible would see Cam Newton as a uniquely made human man bearing the image of God and needing a Rescuer from his sins, the secular worldview (21st-century, Western secular worldview, anyway) sees him as some combination of heterosexual, black, rich, American, and famous.

      My favorite radio host’s daily analysis of the sporting landscape wasn’t sitting right with me because he was downplaying individuals’ humanity by talking about them only in racial categories.  

        
      The same thing often comes into play when the secular perspective approaches raising children or counseling adults.  Where a Biblical prism can take into account ADD and a sinful heart, a troubled childhood and a present-day idolatry, the secular way of looking at humans (and the world) has a limited number of categories at its disposal.  It has ruled out certain truths from the outset, mainly that humans are embodied souls created in the image of their God  and that they are sinners.  So it cannot diagnose your child’s sin and his sleeping problems.  And it cannot counsel the physical and sinful components of your lust or your anxiety.  It must give me Ritalin or call me a victim; it  has no class or heading for anything else.  
      Two important addendums:  

      1. I am not saying Christians should only think spiritually because modern secularism thinks only physically/temporally.  That’s Gnosticism, the ancient heresy that the physical is somehow bad in God’s eyes.  I’m saying that the Christian can look at people and problems through a lens that brings both the physical/temporal and the spiritual into focus.  In other words, Christians and materialists are not looking at separate pictures, one spiritual the other physical; Christians are looking at the whole picture, materialists only the frame.  
      2. I am not saying that everyone who denies Jesus refuses to acknowledge sin, the imago dei, or the spiritual.  I am maintaining, though (and vigorously) that the secular mindset or worldview does.  

      The Bible can give a fuller definition of “human” because the Bible is an account given to us from the One who authored humans.  On the other hand, all you have to do is watch the news for a couple of days (or listen to my favorite sports show), and you’ll see that the dominant worldview in our day and place can only seem to group people and define them by economics and race and gender and sexual attraction and nationality.  It can’t seem to probe into the heart, the sin, or the human’s created purpose.  

      It can’t give a full, composite picture of you, me, or Cam Newton.  

      If you take out the dei, it won’t be long before you lose the imago, too.