Deadness Also Smells Like Death

As is usually the case, there are ranges on a spectrum when it comes to the question of whether believers should speak and live in such a way that unbelievers would be attracted to the gospel of Christ.

There is one side—usually driven by the Bible and theology, even Reformed, Calvinistic doctrines such as the depravity of man and the need for irresistible grace—of those who argue that Christians and the gospel cannot be attractive to sinners and therefore any attempt to make ourselves winsome is naive at best and probably actually dangerous, you know, slippery slope and all.

On the other side—sometimes driven by the apparent callousness and unloving nature of the Bible-theology folks, and/or sometimes driven by the apparent gravity of Jesus demonstrated in the Gospels—are those who maintain that Christians and the gospel can be attractive to sinners and therefore any refusal to make ourselves winsome is at best immature and probably actually ungodly.

I am a truth guy. I think the Bible is the ultimate standard. My wife and I named our only son Calvin. I have served my time in very man-centered churches and can see with my eyes how compromised much of the Christian message is today because of those who try to win the world by being like it. One of my favorite books ever is Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur, and I read it at a time when I was first learning the doctrines of grace. His book gave me categories to resist pragmatism along with the heroic narrative and quotability of Charles Spurgeon.

However, Solomon said it was worth gaining wisdom in order to increase persuasiveness of speech (Proverbs 16:21; 16:23). Wisdom works to be winsome. Paul told the Cretan slaves that they should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior“ in their behavior (Titus 2:10), not on their book selling tours. Adorning makes it look good, appealing, desirable. Paul also said that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16). Speaking about Christ and living lives for Christ is a smell, detestable to some and delightful to others. Don’t we want it to be delightful? And when does the delightful, life to life part start? Only after a man believes, or as God’s Spirit is sovereignly drawing him to believe?

Of course if no one can hate what we’re doing, we may be seeking the wrong kind of attractiveness. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, and don’t be conformed to this world. But if no one wants what we have, we may be an ungodly sort of unattractive. Life can smell like death to the dead, but deadness also smells like death to the dead.

Him Who Is Weary

I read a mass of complaints about social media, <irony>many of which come on social media</irony>. I have been on Facebook for over a year now, and it is worse than I imagined it to be. At least on Twitter, the most that anyone can irritate me is with 280 characters (though I would be happy to return to the 140 limit). I have curated my list of subscribed RSS feeds to a smaller number than it used to be. All of the information/bellyaching is enough to make a man tired.

And also, this technology is an amazing gift. The Lord could give us whatever He wants, and, while these modern communication outlets are not necessary, they certainly transmit a multiplicity of blessings and not merely bile.

I am very thankful for the Lord’s grace to me through some of these means. I really enjoy reading the updates from some of my friends, wherever they are and whatever they may be posting about.

The prophet Isaiah wrote,

The Lord GOD has given me
   the tongue of those who are taught,
that I might know how to sustain with a word
   him who is weary.
(Isaiah 50:4)

I am not identifying my Friends or Follows as prophets, nor do I take their word as inspired. But God often uses them to encourage my heart.

If you have been “taught” by the Word and want to share a verse, a quote, a link, a short story, then go for it. Use your tongue, or your thumbs. And thanks for being used as His instrument.

Sing It for Yourself

You might need this today. In the spirit of colossians3:16ing, here’s Psalm 94:19 (NASB):

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,

Your consolations delight my soul.

“Anxious thoughts” translates the Hebrew word sarappim which could be defined as “the processing of information which causes distress and anxiety in one’s mind and heart” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semitic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). Synonyms abound here: disquieting thoughts, anxious doubts, fear, angst, worries, stress, unease, internal reactions to an upcoming event or an uncertain outcome. Do you ever have any of those? Are challenges to your calm approaching from more than one front? The language is emphatic, these “cares” (ESV) are “many.”

The second line of the verse uses another plural. The “anxious thoughts” are not swallowed up by a more absorbing anxiety but by more powerful ”consolations.” The Hebrew word is tanchum describing comforts, the easing or alleviating of distress. These are supports and reassurances that “delight” or “cheer” (ESV) our soul.

Ours are the internal cares, His are the soul comforts. His comforts are greater than our cares.

In the context of the song these anxieties are caused by political and cultural concerns more than just psychological or emotional concerns. It’s a big world, and there are a lot of problems. Certainly, though, there is application for whatever factor is multiplying our worries.

And what are the “consolations” that the psalmist had in mind? Just in Psalm 94 itself Yahweh is the judge who will repay the wicked, He hears and sees all, He rebukes entire nations, He teaches men knowledge, He disciplines those He loves for their blessing, He gives rest to those in trouble, He does not forsake His people, He holds up the falling. Of course these do not include any of the New Testament consolations in Christ by the Spirit, which happen to be a lot.

My meditation on this verse has come by singing a version of the Psalm that our church sings. I’d sing it for you here, but this is a blog. The words are:

When my anxious thoughts are many,
how Thy comforts cheer my soul.

Sing it for yourself. Sing it for another.

Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I have more things to be thankful for than I realize. But I know I am #blessed, and it can’t hurt to count some of them.

I am thankful for my wife’s perseverance through daily pain that most people don’t realize. Mo takes pain medication so that she can get up to serve those around her not so that she can sit down and rest a few points lower on the pain scale. I’m thankful for how quickly she forgives me and does not treat me like my sins deserve. I am thankful for her curiosity that never hits snooze. I am thankful for her insight into each one of our kids and for how she mobilizes their force as a unit. I am thankful for her pumpkin whoopie pies.

I’m thankful for our who kids act like it’s normal to go to a school that their parents and parents’ friends started in a basement. I’m thankful for kids who are loyal to their family, but whose loyalty to family is rooted in their love for God. I’m thankful for kids that look forward to worship with the church on Sunday and who never complain about staying late because they are with their friends. I am thankful for kids who are unrelenting idea-machines for doing things better or bigger. I’m thankful for kids who get excited about spending money on other people.

I am thankful that my sister is in heaven, free from pains of all kinds.

I am thankful for all sorts of tools that most people in history could not have imagined. I’m thankful for reading on my iPad Baby Pro in the Kindle app or Logos app while I’m running on my treadmill. I’m thankful that whatever I highlight syncs to my MacBook Adorable. I’m thankful for text messaging. I’m thankful for the Apple Pencil, for the Internet, for Ulysses, Tweetbot, Things 3, nvALT, DEVONThink, PDFExpert, Goodnotes, Dropbox and iCloud Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar and Google Docs, Due, Overcast, Instapaper, Feedbin and Unread, Scanner Pro, and YNAB.

I’m thankful for the Reformation and Luther and Tyndale and Calvin and Bucer and Edwards and Spurgeon and The Master’s Seminary and Brothers, We Are Not Professionals and Douglas Wilson and Abraham Kuyper. I’m thankful for fiction (though not necessarily the Dispensational kind), for non-fiction, for the ability to read and the ubiquity of English reading material.

I am thankful for the three other pastors at our local church. I’m thankful for the flock who endure how often my mouth is open. I’m thankful for the teachers of our kids. I’m thankful for the worldview of Kuyperian Dispensationalism, even if I am not yet living in such a way that others would envy. I am thankful for God’s grace and new morning mercies and the Holy Spirit all working to bless me and make me a better Christian, husband, father, shepherd, friend, and image-bearer.

I am thankful for black coffee, for red wine, for white (turkey) meat, and for brown gravy. I’m thankful for how the gospel has influenced more feasts than those who feast recognize. I’m thankful I get to feast in Jesus’ name.

Hold It Together

I had a particularly good time reading my Bible and praying this morning, and saw some really interesting things in Hebrews 12. In particular, the word “weary” which the author uses a couple times (verses 3 and 5), is an emphatic form of λύω which is the Greek word used in the beginning verb paradigms. For Greek students it’s sort of funny because it doesn’t seem as if you see λύω very often in actual New Testament sentences. By itself luo means “I loose,” so I wonder if this kind of “weary” could be loosely translated as “not holding it together.”

Verse 3 gives a plan for not being weary: consider Christ. And verse 5 quotes wisdom from Proverbs 3 and commands God’s children not to be weary. In other words, hold it together, son!

I also forget about the running illustration in verses 1-2. I like running. I really miss when I can’t run. The exhortation is: “with endurance, run!” And specifically we’re to run “the race that is set before us.” God is obviously the one setting the course, and with every step we should be acknowledging Him as the one who laid out route, including the interruptions and opportunities and difficulties. So, run, son!