There is a new podcast in the world.
My wife and one of her good friends had been talking about the possibility of podcasting, and then were prodded by one of the young ladies in our church/school to record their first episode at her birthday party.
These are ladies worth listening to. Along with a guest, they talk about dealing with temptations to sin as a mom, and in particular as an intellectual or at least intellectually interested mom, and then finish off with some direction for younger girls on thinking about how they invest their attention dollars as sisters in Christ.
If you’re interested then listen, subscribe, and share.
April 8, 2021
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode a young beast of burden into Jerusalem to applauding cheers. The crowds cried out, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:9) Five days later the crowds cried out, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22)
It has been popular for preachers in the past to identify the crowds as the same, a lesson about the fickleness of men and mobs. It has become popular these days for more preachers to distance themselves from such a simple platitude, as if it was silly even to suggest the crowds were the same.
There’s no need to throw the baby out with the palm branches, so to speak. We don’t have to say that every single person who praised Jesus on Sunday then cursed Jesus on Friday. We also don’t have to say that no single person who praised Jesus then cursed Him, which requires proving a negative. What’s more, Jesus’ own teaching, and Jesus’ own disciples, point toward the possibility of flaking out.
In His parable of the sower one type of person heard the seed of the word and received it with joy and then at some point later, the story doesn’t stipulate the amount of time, the same person got tired of troubles associated with that word and fell away (Matthew 13:20). Why couldn’t a mob be rocky soil? A mob could be overwhelmed with hate after being overwhelmed with joy. And every one of Jesus’ disciples, those who had been following Him for three years, abandoned Him, at least temporarily, when their shepherd was struck (Matthew 26:31, 56).
A couple things: First, as a church we have affirmed the faith and joy of some who then turn against Christ. We baptized them as believers, and sadly, some have later denied that profession and have fallen away. We pursue their repentance according to Matthew 18, and yet some must be removed from being under the spiritual protection of the church (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) and are no longer welcome to share the Lord’s Table with us. It is always sad, even if it isn’t surprising.
Second, the problem with the crowd on Palm Sunday was not their praise, the problem with the rocky soil was not the joy in the word, the problem is not with professions of faith. The problem was not living by faith. So, Christian, keep praising, keep receiving the word with joy, and keep feeding on the true bread of life and drinking the true drink of Jesus’ blood. Keep abiding in Him and you will live forever (John 6:52-58).
March 31, 2021
You may not be familiar with some of the discussions, debates, and derogatory broadsides going on about empathy (here is one recent thread about it), but I am sure you’re dealing with the mindset. It used to be talked about in other ways, one of the more famous is “people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care.” Which, sure, is fine as far as it goes, until you get to the Emergency Room with the bone sticking out of your thigh. As for me, I’d rather not know if the doctor cares; knock me out and do what you know to do.
I first read about a distinction between sympathy (feeling with) and empathy (feeling the same as) in a book about leadership almost a decade ago. It matters how one defines the terms, and some people use empathy as a synonym with sympathy, but others in our culture have begun to magnify empathy, even weaponize it, and that’s bad. (Here is a good example of how bad it can be.)
There is zero equivocation on whether or not we as Christians are supposed to love others, including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44)(. God’s Word also describes the bowels of compassion (σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ, Colossians 3:12), and God’s Spirit enables the right sort of kindness and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). The book of Proverbs talks about sweetness of speech increasing persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21, see also Proverbs 27:9), and we come back to Paul’s exhortation, with the goal of building up the body in love, to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
But to be clear, sin is not something that is fixed with empathy. It is not fixed with anything but Christ’s sacrifice. We have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, but the difference is that He was tempted like us but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The gospel is not affirmative therapy. A good parent doesn’t share in fussiness to get his five year old into contentment, a good pastor doesn’t share bitterness to get his sheep into patience, a good friend doesn’t share doubt to get her friend to live by faith. A good prophet doesn’t say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
Of course there are sufferers who can, and should, be comforted (2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 13:11). We are exhorted to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But we are also instructed to exhort one another that we would not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Sin creates hard feelings, and again, hard feelings aren’t fixed by someone else sharing in them. The God-breathed Word doesn’t endorse whatever we’re feeling, it rebukes and corrects, it breaks us up, so that we would be complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
March 30, 2021
The Beautifying Stage
Being loved into greater loveliness is a gospel canon.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
This is the loving sacrifice of the Bridegroom. It is the standared for husbands with their wives, and in fact, husbands and wives were made for sake of modeling in miniature the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). It really is profound.
Christ gave Himself up, He gave Himself out of love, He gave Himself in order to nourish and cherish the church into loveliness.
It’s sort of like the months of beautifying for King Ahasuerus: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women (Esther 2:12). In a spiritual sense, the church is in the beautifying stage. What’s more, we are not being adorned with uncertainty about who will be chosen as was the case with Ahasuerus, we are being adorned because we have been chosen.
And more than given skin treatments, we are being fattened up, not starved. The sacrifice which Jesus made, which Jesus gave a meal to remind us of, is the sacrifice that makes our invitation to the great wedding meal effective. We are also being clothed, and the “righteous deeds” that belong with our garment (Revelation 19:8) include our obediences, our obediences includes rejoicings, and our rejoicings include proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes in communion.
We are given a supper (1 Corinthians 11:25) in anticipation of a supper (Revelation 19:9).
March 25, 2021
It was a year ago this past Sunday that our church started the first of seven livestream only services, including Resurrection Sunday. As a church we initially accepted what we were told, trusting the message about the severity of the virus as well as the timeframe for the lockdown: fifteen days to flatten the curve. We have learned a lot since then, not just about COVID but about the many faces of soft-(and scientific sounding)-tyranny.
A couple weeks ago at our Life to Life group we discussed the past year. A couple men mentioned that they sort of wished that we, as Christians, not just at TEC but including us, would have been both more unified and more attacked. As a church we’ve tried to avoid being obnoxious, and who knows all the ways we’ve been protected. But again, some of the guys wished that we’d been more obviously hated.
A few things:
First, we’re not done, there is still plenty of time.
Second, at heart this is a good longing.
Blessed are you when others revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12).
Being jealous for the blessing is appropriate. Being pour in spirit, mourning for sin, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, these are things that are more up to us. But being persecuted, and receiving the blessing that comes with it, requires outside hatred.
Third, now is a good time to get ready for not just the blessings, but the pains. It’s a less good time to talk about the sovereignty of God for the first time right after your friend’s cancer diagnosis, and it’s a less good time to talk about rejoicing and reward for being reviled once the attack bots on Twitter are released.
We are to “rejoice and be glad.” We will respond that way when we mourn our own sins first, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when we are pure in heart, when we make as much peace as possible. We will respond that way when we see ourselves in the long line of God’s people (as in the prophets) and when we see that we are promised great reward in heaven for worshiping the Son.
March 23, 2021
His Doom Is Sure
When Scripture describes our salvation it does so with all three tenses: past, present, and future. According to the Father’s eternal plan Jesus saved us by delivering us from the penalty of sin when He died and rose again (2 Timothy 1:9), Jesus is saving us by delivering us from the power of sin as His Spirit makes us more holy (Romans 6:13-14), and Jesus will save us by delivering us from the presence of sin, bringing us into the Father’s presence blameless and with great joy (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24).
Did you know that Scripture also describes our enemy’s defeat in all three tenses?
Jesus cut off our adversary’s reign when He died and rose again. “(God) disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in (Christ)” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus continues to cripple our adversary’s efforts when we pray for Him to deliver us from the “evil one” (Matthew 6:13; 1 John 5:18). And because of the Lamb our adversary will be finally cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). As Paul told the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).
This is not to say that we aren’t being hunted. The devil is like a roaring lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). One of the ways he threatens is by causing division, even as Paul told the Corinthians that he was forgiving others, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
So “in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, which which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.” This hope comes from the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
March 18, 2021