The Heart of the Problem

Proverbs 4:23 says:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

While there are other verses that address what we allow in, this verse provides wisdom for watching what comes out. Our hearts, complex as they are, require constant supervision.

Jesus taught the same thing to His disciples. He said (recorded in Mark 7:21-23):

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

It is as common as breathing to blame others rather than take responsibility. But what I plan to exhort us to consider for the next few weeks is not who is responsible, but what we are responsible for. Stated more specifically, this will be a confession exhortation mini-series on emotional control.

How many times have you heard someone say that she can’t help a certain behavior or making a certain comment because that’s just how she feels? Her response must be accepted by the rest of us because it wasn’t something she chose; she might even say the response chose her. Many Christians have been catechized with these worldly, emotional defense mechanisms, and it makes no less of a mess.

The Christian’s goal is not suppression of emotion or feeling, the goal is mortification, that is, the killing of sin in our hearts by God’s Spirit. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). That same Spirit produces the fruit of love and joy and peace and patience, which certainly include relevant emotions. Self-control doesn’t mean being emotion-less, it does mean we don’t let fleshly emotions rule us.

It is as dangerous for a man to indulge in fits of anger that his kids aren’t obeying him as it is for a young man to indulge in proud self-pity that a young lady isn’t fawning over him. It is as dangerous for a woman to indulge in envy over another woman’s housekeeping skills as it is for a young woman to indulge in foolishness over a teenage boy who couldn’t fill her father hunger even if he wasn’t foolish himself. These things come from our hearts, and that is the problem.

November 9, 2020 confession Emotional Control

Everything in Its Place

book cover

I’ve read a variety of productivity and organization and personal growth books over the years. I almost always appreciate them, not because each one has new information, but because fresh reminders are good. The unique angle of this book is related to chefs and kitchens and cooking, but I buy that there’s overlapping application outside of the kitchen. I’ll be thinking about mise-en-place and working clean for a while.

4 of 5 stars

November 8, 2020 Goodreads GTD Productivity

The Score Is Settled

I’ve been thinking about the phrase the body keeps the score (which is a title of the book by the same name). Perhaps more and/or excruciating and/or chronic pain in the body provides a good platform for pondering the feedback loop that the body provides. Pain is feedback, pain is a gift from God in a number of ways, not just to increase our sympathy for others, but to get our attention that something is wrong. Good doctors and physical therapists warn about dependence on pain meds if meds are used in a way to forget that something is broken.

Leprosy, for example, was a deadly disease that didn’t hurt, and that was exactly the problem. Leprosy deadened the nervous system so the leper couldn’t feel when he rubbed off his skin, and finger and toes. Lack of sensitivity leads to self-destruction of the body.

In Revelation 16, the first bowl of judgment, oozing and painful sores on the body not only fits as another external sign on those who took the mark of the beast, it also fits as a sign of the oozing and festering sin in their hearts. That will be an extreme example of the body keeping score. Skin erupts into boils as their sin erupts into blasphemy. This isn’t spiritualizing the sores, but it is connecting the spiritual and the physical.

That, though, won’t be the ultimate example of the body keeping the score. The ultimate example has already occurred. It was Jesus who took on a body so that He could settle the score our bodies deserved.

So Isaiah prophesied, He was wounded for our transgressions; he was chastised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4). Peter wrote, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

November 7, 2020 communion

The Vanity of Man-Centered Vanity

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. … What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, 9)

This qualification, under the sun, matters. It’s sort of like saying in 2020”; we expect certain things to be true in those conditions. Of course, 2020 itself can be viewed under the sun, as could the tumults of the 16th century, and yes I just tried to sweep together the Protestant Reformation and a pandemic and a presidential election into the same thought bucket.

The great temptation among men is to forget God, or just to behave as if they have. This can even be done in His name, as the Roman Catholic Church has proven. Solomon’s observations about the apparent meaninglessness and mundaneness and weariness happen not from geocentricity, but from anthrocentricity, seeing life with man at the center, or even egocentricity, where things revolve around me. Man-centeredness, me-centeredness is vanity.

This is what the Reformers brought to light from Scripture, that by grace through faith in Christ we see the glory of God. The Word, which proclaims the gospel, announces our freedom from man-centeredness. We are delivered from the narrow frustrations of oppression and deceit and injustice and suffering and endless gathering and collecting under the sun, to see that actually, life and wisdom and joy come from the hand of God.

When our feet almost stumble, when we are tempted to envy the arrogant who seem to prosper, when it seems a wearisome task to figure it out, we come into the sanctuary of God” to see Him at the center and we discern their end, and our place (see Psalm 73:1-2, 16-17).

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

November 6, 2020 confession

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology

Subtitled: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism

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Of the books I’ve finished in 2020, this is one of my favorites.

A friend gifted it to me; as thankful as I turned out to be for this gift, I can’t imagine having gone looking for it. The title/subtitle is a mouthful, then come to find out it’s a master’s thesis. You may not be interested in the topic, but you should read it anyway and you might be blessed by the end.

The subject is covenantalism, and more particularly a disagreement in the 17th century from some covenantal credo-baptists. If you’re used to hanging out with paedo-baptizing Presbyterian covenantalists, duh, hence the presenting basis for this book.

I entered and exited this reading as a credo-baptist. I entered and exited as a Dispensational Premillennialist, not withstanding the author’s flabbergasted pot-shots at those in my camp.

But I exited with a much clearer appreciation for the Covenant/covenant along with greater commitment not to ignore or downplay some covenental/federal implications, as is typical Baptistic bias.

I also exited with a clearer concern related to the origin of the debate. I have more to process about the subject, and want to read the book again. And yet it still appears to me that the primary problem for both kinds of Covenantlism (for Baptists and for Presbies) is reading backwards, (though the Baptists do a bit better). There is too much New Testament override of the Old Testament, and even parts of the Old Testament get pressed back into duty at the beginning of Genesis, even into the counsels of God. I don’t think progressive revelation works that way, and while we should be happy about the covenant-keeping God, that doesn’t need to make us covenant-happy readers finding it in all the white space between the lines.

5 of 5 stars

October 31, 2020 Goodreads Covenantalism baptism

Before Jerusalem Fell

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This is a book about when the book of Revelation was written. I started preaching through Revelation over a year ago, and it would have been just terrific to have read Gentry a long time ago, certainly before I started my Apocalyptic prep. Woe, woe, woe to me.

The title of Gentry’s book is also the answer to the question. Gentry aims all of his literary, historical, and interpretive guns at a before AD 70 date. As it turns out, his arguments misfired for me. I don’t mean that in the popularly subjective way; I can be persuaded by evidence. I found the evidence wanting. In brief:

He assumes throughout his book that Revelation is about how the church replaces Israel. This governs his observations. This makes some conclusions for him. That’s not the same as an argument.

He defends himself for dozens of pages before making his actual arguments. That’s at least true in the third” edition I have. He begins with a Preface in which he replies to numerous critics on their numerous disagreements. It’s actually quite unenjoyable. Me thinks thou protests too much.”

He also seizes humility in other authors as proof that he could be right. That is insufferable, if not actually unfair reading. While he admits in many places that there is evidence on both sides, he takes others making the same admission as reinforcement of his ideas.

I really do wish I had read this many years ago. I also wish I had more time to answer why I’m still unconvinced about his answers (and assumptions). But the book is too convenient, too affirming-the-consequent, and too hopeful in (possible) loopholes that (perhaps could be used to) make his point.

3 of 5 stars

October 29, 2020 Goodreads Revelation Preterism