A Shot of Encouragement

Against Abortion and For Adoption

I aim to post something at least once a week against abortion or for adoption. It’s not because I have a platform. It’s not because it’s trendy. It’s because God hates evil and loves good, and so should all His people.

The End of Many Books

Leepike Ridge

by N. D. Wilson

Really great, whether or not you’ve read The Odyssey!

I think I’ve read all of N.D.’s other books, and am not sure what took me so long to get to this one, his first novel. I read it for our kids, two of whom had already read it, and even teared up a bit at the end. 

“You should look under the bed.”

5 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books


by Nassim Taleb

I heard about this book from Doug Wilson’s recommendation, and I recommend that recommendation. As for the book itself, I loved it. I might say I needed it even. 

The categories of Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile are a worldview trifecta. Life on earth is volatile. Volatility is unavoidable and often unpredictable, especially when it comes to worst cases. Either a man will fear, prepare to survive, or look forward to the volatility (up to a point, of course) in order to get better. 

“You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.” 

There are some technical formulas I didn’t follow, and maybe Taleb likes charts a bit much for my taste. He also believes in, and resents the brutality of, evolution. Evolution doesn’t bother me, at least on the macro level, because I don’t think it’s true. Taleb also gets snarky at times. That doesnt’ bother me either because, well, I like snark. 

But the “nonsissy concept of antifragility” is wisdom gold. It applies to emotions, health/medicine/exercise/food, money/economics, education/schools, politics/government, technology, suffering, discipleship/pastoral ministry and counseling. I’ve already started a second read of the book with the elders at our church.

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Candle Under Your Hoodie

There is a somewhat famous statement in Christian circles that “it is better to marry than to burn.” That’s a poetic way to talk about passionate, erotic desire for someone else. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with passion, but there is only one safe direction for sexual desires: your spouse.

Remember King David. He was already married, but then he saw Bathsheba, and in many ways his life was undone. It was unlawful desire. It destroyed him and many lives around him.

In Proverbs 6 Solomon shares wisdom with his son, starting with exhortations to learn from the ant about not being lazy, and then moving to reminders about mom and dad’s teaching on purity. There’s a lot of warning about the “strange” woman in Proverbs, and there are a couple verses about obvious danger.

Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?

This is a different kind of burning, and the consequences are unavoidable. The questions don’t reveal information, they are a memorable reminder. How far can you carry a candle around under your hoodie? What number of jumping jacks can you do barefoot in a bonfire? It’s impossible to avoid the pain, and Solomon presses the image into adultery.

So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
none who touches her will go unpunished.

It is good for a man to touch his wife, it’s not good for a man to touch another man’s wife, or any woman who’s not his wife. It’s good to love your wife, it’s not good to lust for anyone who isn’t (Matthew 5:28).

Where are your passions? Are you guarding your heart? Out of it proceed the issues of love.

A Shot of Encouragement

Generals and Shepherds

Great distinction between generals and shepherds:

“Rupert Greeves was no general. Generals spend men. Generals expect sacrifice from those who stand with them. Shepherds do not lead their sheep into battle with wolves. They fight alone.”

—N. D. Wilson in Empire of Bones

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Valley of the Shadow of Freaking Out

The natural man is surprisingly dumb when it comes to economics. He makes virtually no end of bad deals.

Consider the following, purely fictional, account. A wife expresses a concern to her husband. She’s having a problem, or anticipates that a problem is coming. She’s pretty committed to the fact that it’s bad. She’s walking through the valley of the shadow of freaking out.

The husband has what the wife needs. It may be extra information, it may be bigger perspective, it may be a practical plan, it may be just kindness and comfort. But often he puts the exact wrong condition on the transaction. He says, not verbally, but through his impatience and defensiveness and anger, “I want to help you with your problem but first you need to stop freaking out.” But her freaking out is the problem, and here she is, asking for help. She is not the dummy.

Consider another scenario. You have a vision to start a new business but not the capital to get going. You visit a bank and ask to borrow some money, and you’re even willing to wear out your good pen in order to sign all the papers promising to pay the bank back plus extra for the privilege of using the loan. Let’s assume that the business plan is reasonable. Would you think it reasonable for the manager to deny the loan because you don’t have enough money? Not having enough money is why you’re there in the first place.

This is not the way Jesus treats us. The gospel is a better transaction. Jesus does not wait for us to get cleaned up before He cleanses us. He washes the dirty. And He doesn’t withhold food from us until we can show that we don’t need it. He feeds us when we’re hungry. He feeds us first. This is good news, and it is for all who believe.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Believing Believers

When Jesus came down the mountain after His transfiguration He met a father who had brought his convulsing son to Jesus for healing. The disciples who had remained in the foothills hadn’t been able to heal the boy, and Jesus lamented over such a “faithless generation.” To the father himself Jesus said, “All things are possible for one who believes,” and the father’s famous response was: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

I was thinking about this again after a repeated comment last weekend at the Grace Agenda conference. When it comes to enraging the culture, telling others the good and authoritative news of the Bible, calling them to salvation in Jesus Christ, it was observed that our first and biggest problem is not getting the unbelievers to believe, it is getting the believers to believe. We don’t believe that God is sovereign and that His Word is powerful and that His Spirit works. We are ashamed of the gospel. We fear being reviled and rejected. We back down and back off. We don’t believe God first.

This is true of Christians not only in evangelism and apologetics, this is true in marriage and parenting, in bill-sorting and job-searching, in health problems and home problems, in temptations to anger or impatience or fear or any sin that plagues us. We believers don’t believe God. There are times when I do not believe God.

But Jesus said all things are possible for the one who believes. While we may cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief,” we also ought to cry out, “I believe, forgive my unbelief.” Little faith does not honor the God of promise and power. We are saved by faith, so let’s live by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Look for a Second

On the first day of the week we worship because Christ rose from the dead; the first day changes all the other days for good. Likewise, His resurrection, though only something that happened once, is just the first of many in a different way. He will not rise from the dead again, but because He did many more will after Him.

Paul told the Corinthians,

in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, ESV)

On the first day of the week we remember the first fruits. “First fruits” is one Greek word, ἀπαρχή, a word that refers to the beginning that represented more. Just as there is no need for an outline without at least two points, so a first signals us to look for a second, for a succession. Paul called Jesus the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18), the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).

We are an army of new men, the offspring of His offering. Supernatural life was breathed into us. We have hope not only in this life but in the life to come. We are no people to be pitied, we are a people purchased and raised and promised the glory of an imperishable body. Jesus is the first fruits and we are part of the rest of the resurrection harvest.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Blessed Forever

Since the Sunday of New Year’s Eve I have focused our exhortations to confession around the idea of being blessed. We’ve seen 13 #blesseds so far, and this will be the final one for this series, though certainly not the last one found in the Scriptures.

The reason for the focus, as you may remember, is rooted in the belief that God will give such great blessing to the church across many nations that will provoke jealousy among the elect unbelievers to cause them to desire salvation and blessing in Christ. This has special concentration on the end times, receiving and rejoicing in our blessings so well that a generation of Israelites will believe and be saved.

The final blessing for attention fits both with that scheme of eschatology and with Easter.

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

This is the fifth of seven blessings in the Revelation, and the blessing is resurrection and reigning. The “first resurrection” includes all those who believe in Christ and die physically before His return; it’s us, the church. The “second death” is eternal death, and it cannot harm the believers at all; it has no teeth.

The blessed will be resurrected to “reign with him for a thousand years.” This is the millennial kingdom, and we believe that this is actually 1,000 years of Jesus’ future reign as Lord on earth over every nation, and it’s us, with Him. We’re not there yet, but we will be.

God’s blesses His people with the hope of resurrection, He blesses His people with actual resurrection, and He blesses His people post-resurrection as they share in His kingdom. It is all because of Christ. In Him we come to life and reign with Him. We are blessed and will be blessed day and night forever and ever.

A Shot of Encouragement

The Obedience of Cancer

Doug Wilson on The Obedience of Cancer:

“this cancer is right where it is because it is being obedient–and we don’t want to be less obedient than the cancer is being. And that means trusting the Lord who does all things well. He assigns a place to everything, and I need to be more concerned about being obedient in my assigned station than I am distraught at the inconvenience created by something else being obedient in its assigned station.”