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Would You Let a Stranger Live with You? Laying Aside the Fear of Hospitality

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 10:01am

“I could never have strangers live with us!”

I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to my husband and me. I feel awkward when I hear that sentiment because I know full well that they could have strangers live with them. I know this because I am just as selfish, fearful, or particular as they may be. I don’t like toothpaste globs in my sink, waiting to use the washing machine, or sharing kitchen space with a sloppy cook just as much as the next gal.

But hospitality uniquely changed my husband’s life when he was a teenager, and so I came to realize that I am far more capable of overcoming my selfish objections than I realized.

When my husband was eighteen years old, a young married couple from his church invited him to live with them and their baby daughter. For the first time in his life, he witnessed a home and a family that was centered on Christ. When we got married, we wanted to provide the same opportunity for others. So, within a couple months of our wedding, we opened our home to the first of many precious people. (And let’s keep it real — some not-so-precious ones too.)

With or Without Faith?

For me, hospitality used to conjure up visions of a Pottery Barn–decorated dinner table, with all my dearest friends gathered around for a delicious meal. But God wrecked that — in the most beautiful way.

We can be funny when it comes to hospitality. By default, we assume that opening our homes has to be a safe bet. We want to make logical decisions with a proper cost-benefit analysis. But Scripture says,

Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Like everything that we do for Christ, true hospitality involves faith. Many times, we have welcomed people in and seen beautiful, tangible results. They have grown and changed and met their goals. But can I tell you that there have also been many times when we have seen little to no growth — times of rejection that have been deeply painful.

But nothing is wasted by God. We may start out trying to counsel and encourage and help others, but God ends up counseling and encouraging and helping us. I think we often forget that God is concerned with our hearts! “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Isn’t that the most beautifully simple verse? Yet we forget this simple but profound truth. The goal of hospitality is not to leave us warm and fuzzy inside, but to leave us looking more and more like Jesus. Remember his example?

Sadly, it seems, many in our Christian community would not want Jesus to stay at their house with the sinners and outcasts that he brought along. He was often defending himself against the “religious” folks that wanted nothing to do with that crowd. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17), he said. And so we invite the sinners in.

“Your Reward Will Be Great”

Just the other night, my husband and I were talking to our kids about a difficult hospitality decision that would affect all of us. We reminded them that we have to start with the question “Is this something that God is calling us as a family to do?” Because if the answer is yes, it doesn’t really matter if we initially feel like doing it or not.

Some would say we are asking our kids to give up more than they should — that we are supposed to put their needs above everyone else’s. I know how deep the desire can be to cater to our children and to cringe at the thought of their discomfort. I have had to fight against the temptation to protect them from suffering. True hospitality often requires sacrifice, inconvenience, and surrender. And God does not require less from them. I am witness that you can prayerfully make decisions with wisdom, while still moving forward in faith.

Jesus’s words in Luke 6:33–36 have always struck me:

“If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

As with everything in our lives, we have the opportunity to use our homes in a way that doesn’t make sense to the world. If all the good you do in your home is for your friends and family, how is that different from every other person on your street? There’s no benefit — to you or to your children, but also to a world that desperately needs to see us doing things differently.

More Blessed to Give

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: Why do we start with fear rather than faith? Why do our first thoughts revolve around us instead of others? Why do we listen to the voices around us rather than lean in to hear the voice of God, guiding us in his word and by his Spirit?

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). From the perspective of eternity, who cares if our couches get ruined, or if that single mom’s child draws on our perfectly painted walls? Can I let you in on a Chan family secret? Buy used things and accept hand-me-downs, because the freedom from worrying about your possessions is incredibly life-giving.

And if you are standing at the deep end (so to speak) of hospitality, working up the courage to dive in, let me tell you this: as we have opened up our hearts and our home to others, what we have received far outweighs the sacrifice and surrender.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20: Your Body Is a Temple

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 7:01am

The people of God are the dwelling place of God — and he cares how clean his house is.

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Advent Devotional Podcast with John Piper

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 7:01pm

We’d like to help you keep Jesus at the center of your Christmas season.

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What If God Takes It All Away? Trusting Him Through Financial Struggles

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:02am

Recently we drove past our old house for the first time since downsizing. Immediately, our four children began rehearsing memories, noting every part of the house that they missed. Once again, they struggled to understand why we had to give it all up.

As hard as I tried to respond with confidence that it was the right thing for our family to follow God’s leading — even at the cost of financial comfort and a home we loved — deep down, I wrestled with my own nostalgia and questions.

Living on Far Less

Rewind six years when we were living well below our means, carefully planning for the future, and seeking wise counsel to be good stewards of our rising income. But, in his strange sovereignty, God chose to teach us how little control we really had.

Even as our oldest child’s neurological challenges seemed to consume us, other pressures were mounting. My health continued to decline and my husband’s on-call job often left me feeling like a single parent. Medical bills increased, and our confidence in the future was replaced by a growing reality that our family was in crisis.

God led us to a place where there was no other option but to let go of all we had saved, planned, and worked hard for. Within a few short months, my husband took a new job that brought significantly less income (but allowed him to be home more often). We sold our dream home, moved in with my parents, and were completely unsure of what the future held.

Am I Trusting in Prosperity?

Where did we go wrong? Maybe somewhere, but maybe nowhere.

Although God commands us to live wisely with what he entrusts us with, he ultimately asks us to trust him above all else, no matter the cost.

Through all of this, even in our desire to use our resources for God’s glory, he has taught me to search my heart by continually asking three questions.

1. Do I live in fear of losing my comfort?

If we desire worldly comforts, and fear earthly loss more than we fear God, then we will likely make decisions and plans according to what we think will keep our lives most comfortable. Looking back, I can now see the Lord’s severe mercy in overturning the plans we had set for our lives. He removed all of our earthly means to find comfort and security in this world. It was painful, yes, but it was also freeing.

As our eyes become increasingly fixed on fearing the Lord and trusting his promises for us, we can live in greater freedom to plan and live wisely according to God’s plan, rather than living in bondage to our own.

2. What legacy am I leaving?

Where we pour our time, energy, and money is a part of building the legacy that we will leave when we are gone. Are we working so many hours for our family’s comfort but are never there to invest in them spiritually and relationally? Are we so focused on planning for the future that we miss how God is calling us to live radically in the present? Or, does our lifestyle suggest that this earth actually is our home?

I am not saying we should not enjoy the gifts that God has given us, but we are commanded to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We should be frequently asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and show us where earthy treasures are motivating us more than eternal ones, that we might pursue righteousness above all else (Matthew 6:33).

3. Whether in prosperity or need, is Jesus enough?

We should plan and save — but is Christ enough if he chooses to take it all away?

In a two-year period, we went from debating how to redesign and remodel our kitchen to wrestling with how we would feed our family of six on food stamps. Both seasons have presented different challenges. In comfort, it was a constant temptation to put our confidence and joy in the false security that wealth gave us. While we desired to honor Christ with all that we had, if I’m honest, it was far too easy to be distracted by the excess.

Far Greater Treasure

Admittedly, the past two years have tested us in other ways as well. We’ve wrestled with trusting the Lord’s leading when it seemed only to lead to greater need and suffering. We were tempted to envy the seemingly comfortable lives of those around us. We’ve questioned why God would allow us to lose everything when we earnestly sought to honor him in our steps. We have struggled to understand why God has taken away provisions for the necessary treatments and doctors that our family’s chronic health issues require. And, at times, we have struggled to see God’s provisions and undeserving gifts because we were so focused on what we had lost.

Yet by his grace, he has continually shown himself faithful, providing in his way and timing, while changing our hearts along the way.

In whatever season you find yourself, hold firmly to the truth that Christ is and will always be enough (Philippians 4:19). He is a greater treasure than anything else this world can give. Sometimes, it may take losing everything on this earth to truly come to believe that with every ounce of our being.

Plan for the Future — But Don’t Hope in It

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

We are commanded to be content today because none of us have a guarantee of what tomorrow holds. Therefore, as Christ-honoring as it is to steward our resources wisely — to plan and save for an emergency fund, home, and retirement — we must always be on guard that we are not placing our hope in them. As we grow in understanding how temporary this life really is, we will learn to hold more loosely to our plans, live in freedom rather than fear, and be willing to spend ourselves more radically for the Lord.

When we find ourselves with a comfortable bank account and all of our efforts panning out as we hoped, we must be careful that our security and joy is not found there. We must boldly ask the Lord to both keep us dependent and to help us, in any situation, to glorify him. May we be slow to judge those who are struggling (not assuming it’s their own laziness or poor judgment), and quick to see how God’s grace has provided for us abundantly for his purposes.

You Can Lean on Him

If, on the other hand, you are reeling from the loss of what you worked hard for, or are carrying the burden of an uncertain future, take heart and rest in the one who sees your needs and is faithful to provide.

May this be a season that you see and savor an increased desire and love for Christ as you lean on him for your current and future needs. Be careful of giving way to resentment or envy towards those who appear to be more comfortable. Your intense season of need may be the greatest gift of grace that God has given you for his eternal purposes.

Top 17 Books of 2017: The Best New Christian Nonfiction

Sun, 11/26/2017 - 8:02pm

Once again, I’m honored to choose my favorite nonfiction Christian books published in the last calendar year, my twelfth consecutive list. 2017 proved to be the most difficult year yet (and I’m sure I said the same thing last year), all driven by aggressive publishing momentum.

This year about 120 new titles caught my attention, and I set out to read the best of them until I could whittle down a list of my 17 favorite reads from the year. But before getting to the list, a few overall comments.

Female authors continue publishing new books at a swift pace, strong in 2014 and a little less prominent in 2015, but with more steam in 2016 and 2017. Women are now a mainstay and growing proportion of Christian publishing.

Christian publishing continues to deliver on aesthetics across the board, both on cover design and interior design, illustrated by projects like the ESV Illuminated Bible from Crossway and the beautiful Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon series (volume 1 and volume 2) from B&H.

Once again, 2017 did not quite deliver biblical theology or commentaries like we saw in 2015, although we do continue to see solid contributions in two premier series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (IVP) and Short Studies in Biblical Theology (Crossway).

Closer to home, God richly blessed and Bethlehem College & Seminary with seven new titles in 2017:

It was a strong year for books related to singleness, marriage, and dating. Along with Segal’s gospel-wise plea to the not-yet married, Deepak Reju helped women steer clear of man-duds; David Powlison offered healing for the sexually broken and hope forward in Christ; Ben Stuart helped to wisely navigate singleness, dating, engagement, and the early married years; and Lydia Brownback tackled the loneliness that will find us whether we “win” or “lose” at romance.

Several significant books in 2017 again attempted to unknot the questions over how Christians best relate to politics and society (no small task). The most talked about book of the year was Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option, a strategy of withdrawal from culture in order to better engage with it. Also noteworthy was James K.A. Smith’s Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, a call to return to a robust Augustinian and Kuyperian model in all its glory. Speaking of Abraham Kuyper, Craig Bartholomew wrote a captivating book, Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction (a book I reviewed for The Gospel Coalition). And 2017 marked the midpoint in Logos/Lexham Press’s ambitious English-translation work of the 12-volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology.

Over the last eighteen months, we’ve seen a swell of valuable books for the suffering and grieving — covering issues as broad as loneliness, depression, disability, chronic pain, terminal illness, raising special-needs kids, and the anguish of losing children. In 2016 we saw ten books from Eswine, Howard, the Wilsons, Ryken, Furman, Guthrie, Tada, Risner, Voskamp, and Taylor. In 2017, six more titles were added from Lydia Brownback, Russ Ramsey, Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell, Richard Belcher, Kelly Kapic, and Connie Dever. And two more noteworthy titles are slated for release in 2018: one from counselor David Powlison and a memoir from Jack Deere. The concentration of so many edifying titles, in such a short publishing season, is nothing less than a remarkable work of the Spirit.

A Thank You

Assembling this list each year reminds me of the breadth of Christian content — the collection of writers and the diversity of genres that are serving the church today. Writing Christian nonfiction is hard work, and it’s mostly not lucrative — so I remain grateful for the writers and the publishers and the editors and the designers who sacrificially labor behind each of these titles. We live in the golden age of publishing, and reading (like writing) is a way of serving others, as we link helpful books to the specific needs and interests of our friends around us.

With my gratitude for all the labors of 2017, here’s my list of the year’s 17 best books, lumped together and sorted by my scientifically subjective algorithm of intuition about what books I think (1) are broadly valuable to the most readers, (2) contribute well to a specific topic, (3) succeed in their intended aims, and (4) will endure to serve the church for years ahead.

Top 17 Books of 2017 17. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson has written a shelf of valuable books, but this one is his best yet. “For the sake of the cut-ups and the screw-ups, the tired and the torn-up, the weary and the wounded — how about we demystify discipleship?” Yes, and who isn’t inside these categories? Discipleship is for the cut-ups and the screw-ups, the tired and the torn-up, the weary and the wounded. Such a great sentence (worth repeating!) — and such a wise book. Few modern authors pastor my soul through prose better than Wilson.

16. The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth: Images of Christ’s Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings by Philip Ryken

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, intentionally didn’t write allegories (like Narnia). But in his letters, Tolkien tips us off that spiritual truths saturate his works. So how do we best mine out all the spiritual allusions in the intentionally de-religioned world of Middle Earth? One way is to find the threefold offices of Christ in the mix of characters that point to Christ. “The center of all joy is Jesus Christ — the word-speaking prophet, the sacrifice-offering priest, and the peace-bringing king.” From this center, Ryken works back from Christ in this beautifully illuminating volume, a capstone to what was perhaps the best twelve months in Tolkien studies and monographs I’ve ever seen, which included Eilmann on Tolkien’s “highly distinctive Romantic longing for a lost world”; Coutras on Tolkien’s supreme articulation of majesty and splendor; and Rhone on Tolkien’s “mythopoeic” worldview which connects him to Lewis, Chesterton, and MacDonald.

15. Exodus by T. Desmond Alexander

The year was rather slow for large academic commentaries, but this volume would have been the most important and significant commentary in just about any year. An 800-page offering on Exodus from one of the best minds in biblical theology, it’s a very good conservative commentary on the text with great care given to apply this prominent Old Testament narrative into the sweeping storyline of Scripture — like few but Alexander can pull off. Also noteworthy, Andreas Köstenberger on the Pastoral Epistles.

14. The Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels by Brandon Crowe

Whenever I read Jonathan Edwards on the glory of Christ, I am surprised again at how much time he devotes to Christ’s humility, obedience, and demonstrations of love — the nitty-gritty acts of Christ’s life. Crowe does something similar here. Jesus is the true second Adam in every way. In his life, words, and attitudes, Christ was everything Adam failed to be, and on this basis he becomes our substitutionary atonement. The book echoes with the last words of J. Gresham Machen: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” The eternal generation of Christ was reclaimed in a bold way in 2017. May this also be known as the year that we reclaimed the active obedience of Christ — because without the life-obedience of Christ, there would be no gospel hope for him to offer us.

13. Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry Hurtado

To be a Christian in the first two centuries was to be weird — gloriously bizarre and odd. Christians handled marriage and sex and worship and social action so distinctly from the Roman pagans around them, it was impossible not to notice the differences. Hurtado has masterfully recreated the stark contrasts in this book. His egalitarian worldview emerges in places (especially when talking about household codes, which he sees as socially constructed, not originating in the Creator’s design). But this message of the cultural distinctiveness of Christ’s followers is especially relevant for us today. A rich and wonderful historical study! For other notable works in historical studies, see Michael Kruger on the church’s identity struggle in the second century, and Brian Wright on the place of communal reading in the Greco-Roman world, and how the practice gave shape to the New Testament and fueled gospel spread.

12. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Tim and Kathy Keller

Following their 2015 devotional in the Psalms, the Kellers have produced a new companion devotional on the Proverbs. As you would expect, it’s a magnificent collection of bite-sized wisdom from Scripture and from their decades of cultural engagement, church leadership, parenting, and marriage. This book would be a delightful way to invest a year of reflection.

11. God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell and Catalina Echeverri

We need more brave authors willing to jump into the present racial tensions and offer Christ-centered vision and hope for ethnic unity. Trillia Newbell has written a very wise walk through creation, fall, redemption, and restoration — all highlighting God’s plan for the diversity among his image bearers, and all wonderfully explained and illustrated for children. For adults, see Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey’s historical novel Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom.

10. A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards edited by Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble

Great old books are important for a reason, but many of the best books are also locked away from modern-day readers by ambiguities and dated debates that make them inaccessible. Helping readers ease into classics is one of the premier gifts that serious scholars offer to reading Christians. In this spirit, Finn and Kimble have edited and delivered a gift to unlock the great books of Jonathan Edwards. Every essay is solid. This year we also saw the massive 700-page Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia edited by Harry Stout, a significant library add for any serious student of Edwards’s life, thought, and theology.

9. True Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre

The authors write, “Whatever our emotional struggle — and we should put every confusing, bizarre, and unruly feeling in this category, leaving nothing out — we will find help and hope in the Bible. There is hope for the teenage girl who wonders why her emotions feel out of control and hope for the woman whose hormones stalk her every month. There is hope for the employee trying to manage stress in the workplace and for the mom who hates that she’s always getting angry at her kids. . . . When we lose heart, when we feel helpless to change our emotions, we must remember the gospel. God, who did not spare his own Son to save us from our sins (Romans 8:32), will not leave us to drown in our emotional rip currents” (27). It’s an incredibly insightful book. Other notable books for women in 2017 include Lydia Brownback on the Psalms, Shona Murray on burnout, Jen Pollock Michel and Courtney Reissig on the dignity of the home, and Christina Fox on union with Christ and friendship.

8. Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison

Every one of us lives with a fallen and sinful sexuality, and every one of us is influenced by the sexual dysfunctions of others. Most books on sexual brokenness focus on one particular struggle, but leave it to David Powlison to discern patterns of similarity that we can all relate to, and to simultaneously address the gospel in two directions. “Some books are written to help people who struggle with their immoral sexual impulses. Other books are written for people who struggle with the impact of sexual betrayal, molestation, and assault. But this book will intentionally look in both directions,” Powlison writes, because “there are not two gospels, one for sinners and one for sufferers! There is the one gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to make saints of all kinds of sinner-sufferers and sufferer-sinners, whatever our particular configuration of defections and distresses.” In 2017, Powlison also released the book How Does Sanctification Work?

7. Entering into Rest: Ethics as Theology by Oliver O’Donovan

Likely the most revered academic ethicist today, Anglican theologian Oliver O’Donovan is writing books that will be read and studied for decades to come. This year marked the completion of the third and final volume in his series “Ethics as Theology” — or “ethics after Pentecost,” as he has called it (see volume 1 and volume 2). To use the author’s dynamic explanation of the trilogy, the series is intended to explain “how the active self expands into loving knowledge, is narrowed down to action, and finally attains rest in its accomplishment” (1:103). Throughout the series, O’Donovan has shown keen awareness of the centrality of joy in ethics, making him especially valuable to Christian Hedonists. This final volume speaks of rest and discipleship within an eschatological hope, weighted with the expectations of future redemption driving our lives and loves now. It is the capstone on a magnificent trilogy I’ll be rereading for years to come.

6. Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson

If the author of Ecclesiastes could behold the raw tonnage of commentaries on Ecclesiastes on the market today, he would surely face-palm in the regret of an unheeded sage. Didn’t he warn us about the overabundance of books? Yes, he did (Ecclesiastes 12:12). So this book would at least have to be a superior offering to warrant the paper it’s printed on. And it is. In the words of Don Carson, “The past two decades have witnessed quite a number of popular expositions of Ecclesiastes — and this one by David Gibson is the best of them.” Consider the mic dropped.

5. Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life by Sam Storms

Continuationism, as a conviction, is alive and well in Reformed circles, signaling a great victory over several years of theological opposition. But now what? Now that we have defended the spiritual gifts, how do we pursue them in practice? This is the hard work, the daunting task, and the somewhat awkward and uncomfortable practice of moving out from the safety of theological debates and into the rather unpredictable work of the Holy Spirit. Sam Storms has been preparing for this moment for years, and we have been long awaiting a book like this one. In the words of pastor Matt Chandler, in his foreword, “It is not an exaggeration to say I have been waiting for this book for close to fifteen years.” Chandler speaks on behalf of many pastors and believers of this new openness, this new eagerness, not merely open to the gifts of the Spirit, but now in earnest pursuit of those gifts in practice, for ourselves, for the spread of the gospel, and for the health of our local churches (1 Corinthians 14:1). Writes Storms, “we are responsible to actively and energetically pursue spiritual gifts” (40). The rest of the book explains how.

4. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper

This is the second book in Piper’s major new trilogy. Book 1, A Peculiar Glory, released in the spring of 2016, offered Piper’s account of Scripture’s self-attesting authority. Book 2, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, launched in the spring, explains how Piper goes about reading and studying to find meaning in Scripture, which requires both supernatural and natural mechanics. Finally, Book 3, Expository Exultation, launches in the spring of 2018, and there Piper will explain how preaching is an act of worship. That’s the trilogy: authority, meaning, heralding. This new book in the middle is loaded with practical help for approaching the Bible, especially in part 3, pages 225–390, principles which no Bible reader will want to miss. To hear Piper himself explain the architecture of his new trilogy, see Ask Pastor John episode 1047.

3. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World by Eric Metaxas

It was the year of Martin Luther and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a master at preaching and publishing and convincing masses. And he was also a haunted man with demons in his past that we must reckon with today. But of all the books published in 2017 on Luther and the Reformation, this 500-page version of Luther’s life is most filled with cultural detail, wit, prose verve, and creative energy — as we have come to expect from the pen of Metaxas.

2. Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha

The Protestant Reformation reclaimed a lot of things — including the beauty and value of marriage. The Luthers enjoyed a sweet marriage in many ways, but it was not without challenges. Katharina, the runaway nun, carried incredible domestic responsibilities, but was not meek, and often displayed a very strong will. Martin, the renegade monk, respected women, but made disparaging comments about them too, at times, even once making it clear that his ideal wife would be chiseled from stone as a quiet and obedient woman (cringe). Needless to say, marriage did not come naturally to either of them, but in the end, “Luther found the best possible partner in Katharina, a woman who deeply loved and respected him, yet also managed his volatile moods and his difficult personality and offered him intellectual stimulation and companionship. Luther undoubtedly understood how challenging and difficult he was. Feisty and strong, courageous and smart, industrious and utterly devoted, Katharina was, in fact, the perfect match for Martin Luther, and he knew it” (212). They do complement one another in a beautiful way. In her foreword to this book, Karen Swallow Prior writes, “Luther’s decision to marry Katharina von Bora specifically contributed to the Protestant understanding of marriage because of the particular ways these two particular people shaped one another and the life they created together. . . . [In our own time] — when marriage seems to be at once despised and idolized, both within the church and outside it, and when the very definition of marriage has been challenged, chastened, and changed — the radical marriage of Katharina and Martin Luther serves as a timely remembrance for the church.” Amen. May the 500th anniversary of the Reformation be a celebration of the value and dignity of marriage, and the preciousness of the home and domestic life — a mash-up of daily chores, messy struggles, spousal tensions, sacrificial love, wholehearted commitment, and transcendent joys and glories. Lastly, I should say this book makes for a fascinating look at one of the most unique couples in church history, but it’s not necessarily a reliable blueprint for every Christian marriage. (Hang tight — books that explain the design of marriage from Scripture will headline 2018.)

1. Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography by Herman Selderhuis

I first met Selderhuis by way of his 2009 biography of John Calvin. This new work of Luther’s life is similar — a Dutch biography translated into English, using sentences that are short, punchy, and precise. I don’t know of another theologian or historian who labors more diligently to make his works accessible like Selderhuis. No doubt we have lost something of him in the translation, but what we have in this biography is a rich gift to English readers. As Metaxas writes long-windedly and often seems to intrude into the narrative, Selderhuis writes with the subtle touch of brevity and precision of a man trying to paint with bright colors while keeping his own fingerprints out of the portrait. He gets details right, as you would expect from a scholar of his repute. (Of all the books I read on the Reformation this year, none better laid out the subtle historical transformation of Roman Catholic indulgences from a rather harmless certificate, originally, to something that became increasingly bold, dangerous, and finally thoroughly heretical.) Selderhuis’s skills — his readability, style, nuance, and focus on the interior of Luther’s spiritual life — combine to make this work my favorite read of 2017, the year of Martin Luther.

Honorable Mentions

The New City Catechism Devotional: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds edited by Collin Hansen. It was a very good year for our friends at The Gospel Coalition, but this new catechism brought catechesis back on the map. Not only did it bring back the category, The Gospel Coalition delivered on an easy-to-use catechism (print and app) to help us all get back into the habit. Well designed and delivered, it is flexible enough to be useful for a variety of ages.

Exalting Jesus in Hebrews by Albert Mohler. For all his notoriety as a seminary reformer and worldview commentator on the daily news, Mohler’s preaching often goes unheralded. This new expositional commentary through Hebrews, developed from his pulpit ministry, is a good reminder of his exegetical skill. Beautifully Christ-exalting, this book is a solid expositional commentary to inspire preachers and a feast of Christ’s glory to any hungry soul.

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe. Written from one teen to other teens, this book is bold, compassionate, and articulate on what it means to live for Christ and to build into a local church. In my endorsement, I wrote, “Wise teens need straight talk — bold talk! — the kind of advice that is sharp enough to help them cut through the false promises and lies of our culture and blunt enough to push back all the old, tired stereotypes of teenagers. . . . These precious years are not the time to slack off; they’re the time to stand out.”

A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward Welch. Packaged in a fifty-day devotional, Welch’s latest book is a short, sharp, and direct weapon to war against personal struggles with anger in all its root causes. The reader will learn again to love by putting off judgmental spirits, grumbling, jealousy, selfishness, and blame-shifting. By relinquishing control over others, readers can find the freedom and joy of a life of self-giving love to others and humility before the eyes of God.

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch. Tech books are the rage these days, specifically in helping us limit and resist the ubiquity of digital media that wants to saturate our teens, our homes, and our lives 24-7. This was one of the year’s better outlines for how to bring balance and digital sanity into the habits and routines of the home. It’s a noble, rational account for why Christian families should resist the intrusions of the digital age, though I think in the end, Crouch undersells the relevance of Scripture to speak to the heart impulses and desires captivated by the digital age (merely a dozen Bible citations). “We are continually being nudged by our devices toward a set of choices,” Crouch writes. “The question is whether those choices are leading us to the life we actually want. I want a life of conversation and friendship, not distraction and entertainment; but every day, many times a day, I’m nudged in the wrong direction. One key part of the art of living faithfully with technology is setting up better nudges for ourselves” (35). It’s a book of useful nudge-suggestions.

This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax. Trevin Wax continues to show his polymathic wisdom, here by looking at the ways Scripture helps us navigate culture. This is a broad book, looking at major trends with winsome boldness, all aimed at pointing us to where we can find the joy that Apple and Hollywood will never deliver — in the face of Jesus Christ. As Marvin Olasky writes in the foreword, “Trevin Wax is thirty-five, young by the standard of theologians who tend to peak at seventy, but he has an old head.” Yes, and a huge heart and an engaging style of writing.

The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings by John MacArthur. It was a big year for MacArthur, with a new 1,000-page systematic theology published in January. But in the year of the Reformation, and the celebration of the gospel reclaimed, this title was especially relevant and valuable — a classic MacArthur re-circling around the glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “In the entire universe, there is nothing loftier or more important than the glory of the Lord. God’s glory constitutes the whole purpose for which we were created. Indeed, this is the ultimate reason for everything that has ever happened — from the dawn of creation until now” (170). Thus, “[God’s] righteous indignation and his perfect justice require an appropriate penalty for sin, because to forego punishment would be to allow his holiness to be trampled underfoot by agents of evil. For God to do that would be to abdicate his authority over his own universe” (161). These cosmic realities set the proper context for beholding the glories of the gospel in Paul’s epistles, which fill the other pages in this solid book.

Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything by Gloria Furman. Furman’s new book is an enthusiastic study into the new-creational themes of Ephesians and a very ambitious attempt to translate cosmic Christology to the dishwater level of daily domestic life. If anyone could pull it off, it’s Furman. J.I. Packer’s priceless foreword to this volume says it all: “Digging into Ephesians had thrilled Mrs. Furman’s socks off, just as deep down it had done mine two generations ago (and, for the record, still does)” he said, reminiscing of his days of teaching. “Paul’s concentrated layout in Ephesians of the glory of God’s grace — the life-giving, price-paying love of the Father, the life-reshaping mediation of the Son, and the life-transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit — is breathtaking; Gloria Furman feels it, as do I, and evidently we agree that every healthy Christian will feel the same, now and to all eternity.”

The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary by Jonathan Pennington. No book of 2017 confronted more of my Bible assumptions than this one. I now read the Sermon on the Mount with new eyes, seeing it less as a series of “flat-footed conditional statements” (you do this, and I’ll reward you with that), and more specifically as a “Christocentric, flourishing-oriented, kingdom-awaiting, eschatological wisdom exhortation” (15). That’s a loaded phrase, and this commentary unpacks it well. No doubt, this book of vast detail needs to be investigated and debated within the academic guild, but it also serves as a stunning example of what we need more of: men and women who have given their lives to isolated sections of Scripture, writing winsomely to share their findings with the rest of us. (Technically speaking for a moment: if in the end, Pennington is right on the protasis/apodosis of the macarisms in the Sermon, this book will be a game-changer for years to come.)

Genesis 1–11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators by Samuel Bray and John Hobbins. A law professor (Bray) and a pastor and Hebrew scholar (Hobbins) got together to retranslate the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Rarely are we brought into the minds of translators as they wrestle for the right words and phrases to address ambiguities and to convey meaning to the reader, and that’s exactly what we get in this book. Initially skeptical over whether I would enjoy reading two translators justify their decisions, my doubts were dispelled rather soon in the drama of their translation struggles. This is a new English translation, with a robust explanation of the translation decisions, ultimately to enrich our appreciation for Genesis 1–11. I can only hope Bray and Hobbins will continue translating the rest of Genesis, the Psalms, Job, and perhaps the entire Old Testament. I’d be eager to read it! For more background on this volume, and their overall strategy, see this interview with the authors.

Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World by Mike Cosper. Our secular, technological culture pragmatically collapses all things into what they can do and what we can do with them — and we grow completely incapable of thinking about what things are. Which is to say, in the secular age of efficiency and productivity and technique, what we need more than anything else is a big dose of awe and wonder injected directly into the soul. But there’s no app for that! This type of anti-DIY book to push against the thinking of the age is the very type of book most people see no purpose for, making it a risky endeavor by authors and publishers alike. But Mike Cosper took the risk and pulled it off, celebrating things awesome and wonderful, about as well as can be done on paper, and all in his trademark style. Related books on secularism and awe include Barnabas Piper on curiosity, and The Gospel Coalition’s Our Secular Age (see Cosper’s contribution there, too).

Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace by Mark Jones. Mark Jones’s bibliography of authored books is impressive in both quantity and quality. Anything he writes, I read — and for good reason, proven here. In this book, Jones has set out to show that the virtue-triplicate — faith, hope, and love — is very often bound together in Scripture (see Romans 5:1–5; Galatians 5:5–6; Ephesians 4:2–5; Colossians 1:4–5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Hebrews 6:10–12; 1 Peter 1:3–8). He then expounds each virtue in the form of a catechism, focused on heart application, and always with an open ear to the most pastorally shrewd insights of the eighteenth century’s greatest pastors. Jones channels Edwards when he writes dazzling sentences like these: “[God’s] attributes — all of them — satisfy us, because knowledge of his being is the chief source of our joy, blessedness, and glory. God is also satisfied in us, for he delights in the good in us, which ultimately comes from him. He cannot but love those gifts that he himself gives to us” (155). Also worth commendation this year is the other book Jones published, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God.

Retrieving Eternal Generation edited by Fred Sanders and Scott Swain. A tornado tag-team match is comprised of six wrestlers who brawl on the same canvas, at the same time, divided into two teams. That’s what the theological world looked like in 2016 over the hotly debated eternal generation of Christ. This book is the ultimate fruit of those debates and the reclaiming of Christ’s eternal generation by a new generation. It’s a doctrine worth defending, and one to which most of us had never given any serious thought, even up to a few years ago. Personal highlights for me include essays by Matthew Emerson on Proverbs 8, Don Carson on John 5:26, and Christina Larsen on Jonathan Edwards — “For Edwards, the eternal generation is central to the church’s confession because, in one way or another, the Father’s eternal happiness in his glorious Son stands at the beginning and end of all things.” Amen. It’s an important debate, and Sanders and Swain and Co. have delivered a book worth reading with care and delight.

Previous Books of the Year

2016: The six-volume ESV Reader’s Bible (Crossway)

2015: Randy Alcorn, Happiness (Tyndale)

2014: Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton)

2013: Tom Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker)

2012: Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything (Credo)

2011: Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Baker)

2010: Don Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Crossway) and The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Baker)

2009: Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale)

2008: The ESV Study Bible (Crossway) and Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Baker)

2007: Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan)

2006: Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Reformation Heritage)

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Did Public Controversy over the Nashville Statement Hurt the Cause?

Sun, 11/26/2017 - 7:00pm

The Bible’s view of human sexuality is a beautiful truth that we should set on a pedestal — even if that means others hate us for it.

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Six Prayers God Always Answers

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 8:02pm

If you are like me, you probably find yourself more consistently confused or failing in prayer than in any other area in the Christian life. Why is that? Talking to the God who chose us, saved us, and sustains us should be the most natural and delightful thing in the world, shouldn’t it? Perhaps it should, but more often than not, it isn’t.

We all know we should pray more. The guilt within reminds us. But if we are honest, we neither want to pray more, nor are we really convinced we need to. Why? Perhaps we don’t really understand what prayer is — or we’re prone to forget.

Let God Speak First

The most important thing to do when it comes to thinking about prayer is to let God speak. Our approach to prayer (and our practice) is often an amalgam of platitudes, folk religion, and basic biblical truths, rather than an exegetically rigorous and theologically rich account of the teaching of the Bible.

When we actually look at what the Bible teaches about prayer, it is surprisingly simple: to pray is to ask God to do what he has promised to do through Christ.

Cast All Your Cares

The core of the gospel is that we have nothing, contribute nothing, bring nothing to God. Prayer, which is made possible by the gospel and shaped by the gospel, works the same way. God gives to us; we don’t give to God. We ask; he gives. Prayer depends on what he has done in us and for us, and on what he will do in us and for us.

Jesus teaches us to pray and to freely ask our Father for the desires of our heart:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9–10)

We can ask for whatever we want, knowing that God will not give us anything bad for us, but only what is good for us (Luke 11:11–13). The apostle Peter exhorts us, “[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7) — all your anxieties, even your mundane and material ones. Don’t be afraid to ask him for anything, and don’t hold back any burdens from him.

Six Prayers

But our everyday expressions of need are not the burden of the New Testament when it comes to prayer. While Scripture encourages us to pray for all manner of things, God also clearly exhorts us to focus our prayer lives.

God hears and answers every prayer, but there are a precious few to which he always says, “Yes.” The prayers always answered positively are the prayers which explicitly ask God to deliver on his promises to us. God will always say Yes when we ask him to do his work through his word.

I have found at least six basic prayers God will always answer.

1. Glorify yourself through me.

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

2. Forgive me.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

3. Reveal more of yourself to me.

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33–34).

4. Give me wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

5. Strengthen me to obey you.

As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12–13).

6. Spread your gospel to the lost.

This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

How do we know God will answer these six prayers? Because he says he will in the first place, and then, even more, because these prayers sum up what God has promised to do through the gospel. This is what God has said he would most surely do.

Ready to Answer

If we want to grow and mature in prayer, we don’t need to set a timer. We don’t need to learn new contemplative methods, or build a prayer closet in the woods. But we do need to become better ask-ers. We need to realize that we are all walking disasters apart from grace, men and women who need God every step of every day. We would all make a shipwreck of our life and the lives of those around us if God did not intervene.

The gospel yells at us, You are weak and sinful, flawed, and needy — but God is strong, gracious, and good — and ready to answer. Ask him to do what he has already promised to do for you. And keep praying, until that day when we won’t need to pray anymore from a distance, because we will see our great Promiser, Provider, and King face to face.

You Too: A Call to End Violence Against Women

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 8:01pm

The dark glasses didn’t fully conceal her puffy black eye.

Four of us surrounded our friend, Sandra, when she came to church that morning. One woman gently embraced her, whispering truth in her ear. I knelt at her feet with a box of Kleenex, supplying her with fresh, dry tissues as she knurled the tear-drenched ones into balls. Two other friends flanked her like sentinels standing guard. The abuse was getting worse.

More than once, the police had been called. Church elders had promised Sandra money for lawyers, protection orders, accommodations, and anything else she might need. We had formulated a plan: Who to contact. Code words. Where we’d take her. What to do with the kids. We begged her not to go back that day. We could help her leave.

But Sandra refused. She insisted she wasn’t ready. Dismayed, I silently prayed that the next call would summon us to her aid, and not her funeral.

A few weeks later, the call came.

In a fit of uncontrolled rage, her husband had pulled the china cabinet over, sending glass exploding across the room. To further assuage his anger, he smashed a chair into splinters, and then, uttering expletives and threats, had stormed out the door. Sandra figured she had about two hours before he came back from the bar to resume his drunken tirade.

The police were on their way. Her second call was to her church contact, who dispatched several couples to her aid. As Sandra gave her statement to police, we cleared a path through the treacherous gleaming shards. The wives packed up clothes and toys. The husbands moved boxes and other belongings into waiting vehicles.

In just over 90 minutes, our friend was on her way to the shelter. This time, she left for good. Her physical wounds quickly healed. But it took years to heal from the severe emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse her husband had inflicted.

The Problem of Violence Against Women

The United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women seeks to raise public awareness about the violence that occurs against women in all geographic regions and socioeconomic strata of the world. This day is observed each year on November 25.

Violence against women is a pervasive issue, and the women in our churches are not immune. Consider the following statistics taken from an extensive survey conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention:

Physical Abuse
  • Nearly one in three women (30.3%) in the United States report being slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner.

  • 24.3% of women in the United States report that they’ve experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner, including being slammed against something (17.2%), hit with a fist or something hard (14.2%), beaten (11.2%), pulled by the hair (10.4%), choked or suffocated (9.7%), kicked (7.1%), threatened with a knife or gun (4.6%), or burned on purpose (1.1%).

Psychological Abuse
  • 16.2% of women report having been watched, stalked, and intimidated to the point of feeling very fearful, or believing that they or someone they loved would be harmed or killed.

  • 40.3% experienced expressive aggression from an intimate partner (64.3% were called names like ugly, fat, crazy, or stupid; 57.9% said their partners acted angry in a way that seemed dangerous; 58% were insulted, humiliated, or made fun of; 48.9% were told they were a loser, a failure, or not good enough; and 39.1% were told no one else would want them).

  • 41.1% experienced coercive control from an intimate partner (61.7% said he closely/jealously monitored/controlled her behavior; 45.5% said he made threats to physically harm her; 43.7% said he kept her from seeing or talking to family or friends; 41.2% said he disallowed her from making everyday decisions, like what to wear or eat; 39.7% said he destroyed something important to her; 37.1% said he threatened to hurt himself or commit suicide because of her; 35% said he kept her from leaving the house when she wanted to go; 27.4% heard things like, “If I can’t have you then no one can”; 22.2% said he kept her from having access to finances; 21.5% said he threatened to take away their children; 14.5% said he threatened to hurt someone she loved).

Sexual Abuse
  • 18.3% of women in the United States report having been raped (12.3% with forced penetration; 5.2% with attempted forced penetration; 8% with alcohol/drug-facilitated forced penetration; 9.4% report being raped by an intimate partner).

  • Nearly half (44.6%) of women report that they’ve been sexually victimized (other than rape): 13% were coerced into having sex; 27.2% experienced unwanted sexual contact (kissing, fondling, grabbing); 33.7% had unwanted (non-contact) sexual experiences (men exposing themselves, being forced to view porn, etc.); 9.8% report being coerced by intimate partners, while 6.4% report unwanted sexual contact, and 7.8% report unwanted sexual experiences with intimate partners.

The statistics are staggering. Especially when one considers that these aren’t just numbers. These are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our granddaughters, and our friends. These are women you see at the grocery store, and those who sit in the pew next to you at church.

Since Time Immemorial

The recent sexual assault allegations against movie-producer Harvey Weinstein stunned Hollywood and have opened the floodgates for other allegations of sexual abuse. Prominent actors, writers, directors, journalists, editors, and news anchors continue to be outed. New allegations against other powerful men in various industries are reported seemingly every day.

Millions of women rallied behind the hashtag #MeToo, taking to Twitter to speak out against perpetrators, and sharing that they, too, had been abused. The outcry exposed the sheer magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women suffer.

The Hollywood scandal merely exposed the tip of the iceberg. It didn’t even begin to address glaring worldwide horrors against women and girls, like female genital mutilation and cutting, honor killings, child brides, pornography, prostitution, and sex slavery.

The abuse and degradation of women is nothing new. As British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson so aptly put it, “This has been part of our world — women’s world — since time immemorial.”

Right Wing and Left Wing

If there’s a point to be gleaned from the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it’s that abusers exist on both sides of the political and ideological spectrum.

Weinstein had presented himself as somewhat of a feminist champion for women. He threw a fundraiser for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, supporting her quest to break the glass ceiling. At the Sundance Film Festival women’s march in Utah, he mixed in with the sea of pink knit hats, showing his solidarity with the women protesting powerful, lecherous, abusive right-wing men. Weinstein was also instrumental in endowing a faculty chair at Rutgers University that bears Gloria Steinem’s name.

Liberal media personalities posture themselves as bastions of male decency. They are quick to point fingers and condemn “evangelicals” and the “religious right” for being oppressive and abusive. The message that constantly blares from the airwaves is that right-wing ideology disrespects and tyrannizes women, while left-wing ideology respects and protects them.

When it comes to respecting women, Weinstein certainly knew how to talk the talk. But he obviously didn’t have the power to walk the walk. Despite the politically correct egalitarian ideology he spewed, he could not hide the wicked, lustful, predatory bent of his heart. And that, I think, is what Hollywood found most disturbing.

Correctly Diagnosing the Cause

In the 1960s, feminists proposed that the abuse and degradation of women was caused by patriarchy (from the Latin pater, father, and arche, rule). Essentially, women were the victims; men were the problem. Especially men who embraced Judeo-Christian ideology. Feminist theorists argued that the status of women would only improve when society toppled male power structures, levelled distinctions between the sexes, rejected a Judeo-Christian paradigm for marriage and morality, and put women equally in charge.

Having worked in the medical profession, I know that an effective course of treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis of the disease. Feminism identifies deplorable abuses against women. But its solution is skewed because it doesn’t correctly diagnose the root cause of this abuse. Ultimately, men aren’t the problem. Sin is. And sin is a malady that affects us all.

Contrary to what culture would have us believe, the church — as guardian and proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ — holds the only real remedy for the evil of violence against women. For it is the only thing that can change the inclination of a sinful heart.

Me Too

As a woman, I could share my own #MeToo stories. Like the time a pastor twice my age patronizingly patted me on my bottom. Or the times I’ve heard men who call themselves complementarians use Scripture to justify arrogant, selfish, domineering, sinful behavior. I could go on, but I won’t. Because on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I would like to make an appeal to my Christian brothers:

Brothers, we need you. We need you to be the men God created you to be. We need you to be the protectors and champions of women and children. We need you to be good fathers. Good leaders. Good shepherds. Please do not remain silent, immobilized, and turtled in a shell of passivity. Man up! Fight against evil — with more than just lip service, and even when it’s no longer the popular fad. “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3–4)

I would also like to make an appeal to my Christian sisters:

Sisters, do not respond to the current heightened attention on the terrible plight of women by becoming bitter, pointing fingers of blame at men, and adopting a victim mentality. Do not jump on the popular bandwagon of collective consciousness raising that presents ideas and solutions concocted by human wisdom. Let the word of God and sound doctrine be your heart’s anchor. Love your brothers. Respect them. Affirm them. Encourage them in their pursuit of godliness. Help your abused sisters. “Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of their yoke, help the oppressed go free.” (Isaiah 58:6)

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women shines a spotlight on the sins of men. But we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Yes, we need to expose the deeds of darkness and speak out against violence against women. But we must never forget that when it comes to sin, all of us could cite the hashtag #MeToo.

Wrap Joy for Under the Tree: Recents Books from Desiring God

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 10:02am

Christmas is a season for joy. Not merely for the passing delights of traditions and trees and ham dinners, but for the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) — the joy that broke into this world as a baby so that we might have joy forever.

As Christmas approaches, we want to remind you of some recent titles from the team at Desiring God. We’ve done our best to take Bethlehem’s good news of great joy and apply it to all of life — from how we read our Bibles to how we date, marry, use our phones, and more. We pray that these books would spread a deep, God-centered joy to you and your loved ones this season.

Desiring God will also release a new book from John Piper on Tuesday, December 5: Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms. Available for purchase now, this short book is an invitation to think and feel along with the Psalms — and, in the process, to find our hearts powerfully shaped by God.

For Advent

Holy and Good — But Never Safe

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 2:03am

When you catch a glimpse of the grandeur of God’s holiness, you won’t be able to keep the message to yourself.

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Single Is Never Second Best: Enjoying God’s Gift at Midlife

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 8:02pm

Marriage is good — it was God’s idea, after all! So, why doesn’t he bring me a spouse?

That question, so perplexing in our twenties and thirties, can become downright painful as the decades march us into middle age and our marital prospects diminish. After all, we know the statistics — there’s a better chance of [insert extraordinary random occurrence] than of getting married after [insert any age over 39].

Does that mean we over-40 singles are doomed to lives of miserable loneliness? Most definitely not. First of all, we can forget about the statistics because, ultimately, only God determines who marries and who doesn’t. If marriage is God’s plan for us, sooner or later we’re going to get married.

Even more importantly, we can be sure that a solitary life is not his plan for us whether we get married or not. God has designed us to live in community, in a family of believers, and his work in our lives aims to get us there: “God settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:6). The real question, therefore, isn’t whether we will wind up alone; it’s whether we’re willing for God’s provision of companionship to be something other than marriage.

Do We Trust Him?

Trusting God’s provision doesn’t mean, of course, that we won’t ever feel lonely. Just as there is a loneliness unique to marriage — in fact, the loneliest people I know aren’t the single ones, but those in a difficult marriage — there are aspects of loneliness unique to singleness:

It’s what a young, single woman feels among friends whose conversations revolve around wedding plans.

It’s what a 30-something single feels when his maturity is measured by his marital status.

It’s what 40-year-olds feel when others make an erroneous link between their singleness and their sexual orientation.

Singles’ loneliness is also fueled by the marital happiness we perceive (or imagine) others are enjoying. Trusting God in the midst of all this pain isn’t about looking harder for a mate or even praying for greater patience. It’s about leaning more deeply into Christ and finding in the process all the blessings of union with him — a deeper, more joy-filled union than that of any human marriage.

That’s why relief from the pain of unwanted singleness begins as we ask, Do I trust God? We won’t trust him if we don’t believe he is good in the way he governs the details of our individual lives — including our marital status. If we are single today, that is God’s goodness to us today.

Singleness Showcases What Marriage Can’t

As we rest in Christ and trust in the goodness of God, the loneliness of being single is transformed into an opportunity to build up the whole body of Christ. In other words, we can serve and glorify God not despite our singleness, but by virtue of it.

As we trust God’s good plans for us, we demonstrate, both to ourselves and to the people around us, that singles aren’t to be pitied. And as we abide in Christ, we stop viewing singleness as a problem to be solved. Since there will be no marriage in heaven except the marriage between Christ and the church (Matthew 22:30; Revelation 19:7), singles are uniquely equipped to show others a preview of what heaven will be like.

This is why singleness is actually a sign of hope rather than despair. We can showcase this hope to our married brothers and sisters by how we handle our singleness, and we can also display the compassion of Christ to other people who feel lonely.

Part of a Greater Family

As we watch our friends raise families, there is no need to feel robbed or shut out, because in the new-covenant era — our era — the family emphasis in Scripture is not mom, dad, and three kids. It’s the church family. When the biblical priority gets reversed, it hinders rather than helps the growth of God’s people.

Of course, we must seek to uphold the importance of the nuclear family, but we don’t want to make an idol of it. If we consider what the apostles emphasized, we see that their focus was much more on the Great Commission, personal holiness, and growing the church family. And it is this family from which no single Christian is to be left out.

Privileged Calling

As singles abide in Christ, we discover, often much to our surprise, that there are unique blessings that come with being single. At a purely practical level, we have more control over our time than our married friends. (I say “more control over” to correct the mistaken view that singles always have more time in general.) And the unmarried can more readily live out their personal preferences in planning social activities, vacations, and areas of service in the church and community. Singles encourage one another and glorify God as they identify their unique blessings, willingly embrace them, and put them to good use.

The best privilege of being single is far and away the enhanced opportunity for discipleship and serving Jesus. This, more than anything else — including marriage — is how God remedies loneliness. And there is a satisfaction that comes from living out these unique advantages that our married brothers and sisters can’t fully know. If we are willing — if we trust God — we will surely experience the value and rewards of singleness.

As we do, we come to value our lives — not despite our singleness, but actually because of it. Women who have rarely or never been pursued by men, or men whose pursuit of women has been rejected (once or many times), often question their worth. It is to such that Christ comes, not to shore up their self-esteem, but to drive them to find him as their worth. As we value Christ, our own value becomes clearer, and as that happens, we discover that somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped defining our personhood and our well-being by our marital status.

Singleness isn’t second best. To the contrary, it’s a privileged calling with unique blessings to enjoy and to pour out for others. Are we willing to embrace it unless or until God calls us to marriage? That’s the real question. And those who say yes will never be disappointed.

Does Hebrews Tell Us to “Grow Up” Beyond the Gospel?

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 7:00pm

We don’t ever outgrow the gospel. So why does Hebrews call us to “leave behind the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity”?

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Thu, 11/23/2017 - 10:01am

Desiring God gathered eleven of our best resources on gratitude to send your heart Godward this Thanksgiving.

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1 Corinthians 6:19–20: God Bought Your Body

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 7:00am

It is foolish to reason that God only cares about our theology and not how we live out that theology.

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Thank God, We Have the Meats

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 8:01pm

Long before a nationwide fast-food chain began claiming, “We have the meats,” the people of God did. It’s an important story, and Thanksgiving is an especially good time to rehearse it.

In the beginning, God made an edible world. And it was good. He made trees both “pleasant to the sight” and “good for food” (Genesis 2:9), and he created humans to eat his world: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29).

Then after the flood, he opened the mouths of his herbivore imager-bearers to the gift of a new banquet: eating animals. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9:3).

He Gives and Takes Away

From Adam to Noah, God gave us every plant and tree. Then from Noah to Moses, he added every moving thing. Yet when God birthed his first-covenant people from the womb of Egyptian slavery, he chose to restrict their eating to certain animals to teach his people, and the world with them (Romans 3:19), about himself.

For a millennium and a half, God’s covenant people on earth saw his created world in categories of clean and unclean, holy and common. God was showing the separation between his holiness and humanity’s sin, and preparing the way for his Son. He had something to teach us that was drastically more important than the freedom to eat all animals. Then in the fullness of time, God sent his own Son, born under that first covenant (Galatians 4:4), and with the coming of history’s apex, and the new covenant, Jesus himself, shocking as it would have been at the time, “declared all foods clean.”

All Foods Clean

It’s just a parenthesis in our English translations of Mark 7:18–19: “‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.)” It’s not Jesus’s main point in the passage, but serves his claim that “the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:16). But in Luke 11:41, it’s no parenthesis: “Give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” But what might be a minor theme in Jesus’s teaching becomes unmistakable after his resurrection.

Peter, of course, has the signature experience and pioneers the pivot. After so long under the tutelage of the law in childhood (Galatians 3:24), God’s people needed more than a parenthesis to begin to eat like adults. So, the risen Christ spoke in Acts 10 to Peter, chief among equals for the apostles, while Peter was on a housetop praying and fell into a trance.

He became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (Acts 10:10–13)

Peter is appalled and answers, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). To which the risen Christ responds, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15) — and it happens three times, to make sure he doesn’t miss the point.

Peter tells the story in Acts 11, and ultimately we find the main point is about Gentiles — “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28) — but the implications for expanded table fare in the new covenant are plain. Paul couldn’t be much clearer in Romans 14–15 and 1 Corinthians 8, as summed up in Colossians 2:16: “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink.”

Christianity: We have the meats.

Victory Food

Here at Thanksgiving, it’s worth pausing over that category of “unclean animals” that God kept from the mouths of his first-covenant people. Why did he keep Israel from eating these animals? And when we enjoy pork, shrimp, and other formerly “unclean” foods today, as new-covenant Christians, might there be something special we should keep in mind, and celebrate?

Ralph Smith, longtime pastor in Tokyo, Japan, writes these memorable lines about “victory food”:

An intelligent and godly Israelite in Joshua’s day would refuse pork not only because God said to do so — though, of course, that would have been sufficient reason — but also because he would have perceived the relationship between pigs and serpents, and because he would have understood that God forbade all animals that were similar to the tempter. If he thought deeply enough, he might have understood that serpent-like animals must not be eaten until the Messiah comes, who will defeat the devil. To eat the serpents would signify complete victory over him, but not until the Messiah comes would that victory be won. Nor would anyone be able to confess their faith in him by eating pork.

Now all has changed because the Messiah has come and won the victory. For Christians, therefore, eating pork should not merely be seen as equal to eating beef or chicken. Pork, shrimp, and other formerly unclean foods are special. They are victory foods. Foods that were unclean under the law are now clean specifically and only because of the cross of Christ. By eating what was formerly unclean, we are confessing our faith in the victory of Christ and the cross. (Victory Food)

Eating ham and bacon is not the same as turkey and beef. Not that we should forgo America’s special bird this Thanksgiving. We thank God for turkey and every longtime “clean” food, and we thank him in a special way for ham, bacon, and other previously “unclean” meats.

Sanctify the Feast

In the Christian life, eating and drinking are not insignificant. All of life, including these seemingly menial daily necessities, is glory-of-God relevant (1 Corinthians 10:31). What, how, and with whom we eat really matters (Galatians 2:11–14), and Thanksgiving and other holidays can wonderful opportunities to rediscover the lost art of feasting and the fine line between fleshly indulgence and a holy feast.

As we draw our friends and family together to the feast, we can celebrate, in the words of Paul, that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5).

Yes, we have the meats — turkey, beef, chicken, pork, and more. Let’s receive them with thanksgiving and sanctify them by hearing what God has said (in his word) about our food and by expressing together (in prayer) our genuine gratitude.

How Do You Structure Your Prayer Life?

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 6:27am

On any given day, innumerable needs surround us that all call for prayer. So how do we navigate these endless needs and decide what to pray for?

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Beauty That Outlasts Looks

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 2:03am

Your physical beauty will fade sooner than you hope. But the beauty God loves isn’t based on outward appearance.

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The Strength You Need for Today

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 8:03pm

The strength you want most may not be the strength you need most, because the weakness you feel may not be the real source of your weakness.

When we begin to feel weak or exhausted, it may be that we’re physically worn out — from work, from relationships, from parenting, from life. We all have days we could go to sleep early, and still sleep until noon — at least if it weren’t for, well, life.

Diet, exercise, and sleep all factor into our strength for any given day, but only incrementally compared to the spiritual resources we need. The strength we really need most from God today isn’t weighed in calories or defined by REM cycles, because the most important things he has called us to do today run deeper and higher than what we typically see and feel.

What Kind of Strength?

Seven words leapt off the page at me recently when reading the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 — probably because I have felt especially weak in the stress of selling our house and moving our young family into a new home: “Saul increased all the more in strength” (Acts 9:22).

The risen Christ blinded Saul after confronting him on the Damascus road. Saul was so disoriented and awestruck that he refused to eat or drink for three days. He was physically depleted, to say the least. When Ananias laid hands on Saul to heal and anoint him, Luke says, “Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened” (Acts 9:18–19). Food helped. He began to regain physical strength he lost without food and water.

But the word Luke uses for strength three verses later is different: “Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 9:22). Luke uses the Greek root of this “strength,” in various forms, 86 times in his Gospel and the book of Acts — and none of them are talking about food or sleep. We’re talking about power and ability, and very often the power and ability to do the supernatural — to understand and explain the word of God (Acts 18:24), to heal (Luke 9:1), to do good (Acts 10:38), or perform miracles (Acts 8:13), or witness to Jesus (Acts 1:8).

In fact, many of the texts refer, directly or indirectly, to what God himself can do (for instance, Luke 1:37; 5:17, 21; Acts 2:24), even when he chooses to do it through people like Saul. When Saul “increased all the more in strength,” God wasn’t refreshing his body to survive another day; he was filling him with power to do the impossible. That is the strength you and I need most today.

Stronger in God

So how do we live and serve and work in that kind of strength? Saul, who we also know as the apostle Paul, went on to write thirteen letters to churches, and used the same verb seven times in his writing. Each one uncovers an aspect of the real, genuine strength we need to do the spiritually impossible.

Strengthened in faith

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20–21)

The strength we need most doesn’t begin in our arms or legs or back, but somewhere deep in our soul. The fatigue we feel physically should remind us of how quickly our hearts are prone to wander and fail. Wisdom will ask God to strengthen faith far more often than it asks him to strengthen the body.

Strengthened by grace

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

The strength we need most is not earned, achieved, or micromanaged. It is given as a gift, and to the undeserving. If you think you can schedule, diet, or even sleep your way to real strength, you will always lack the resources you need to glorify God. No, real strength knows that apart from him we can do nothing.

Strengthened with God’s strength

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10)

When you experience real strength, it will not be because you finally tapped into your strength, but because you finally gave up relying on your own strength. Society may want you to believe you’re filled with unbounded potential to accomplish the impossible, but the key to achieving anything truly meaningful or lasting is realizing we will not achieve anything truly meaningful or lasting on our own. If you feel weak, you do not need more of you; you need more of God.

Strengthened against evil

Next verse: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11–12)

God fills us with his strength and issues us his armor for more than the eye can see. He is not simply preparing us to survive another day of work, or marriage, or family, or even ministry. He’s preparing us to defeat the devil, to stand in his strength against evil — the evil deceiving us from within and the evil attacking us from without. If you try to battle Satan and his demons on your own, burnout will be the least of your problems.

Strengthened to serve

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. (1 Timothy 1:12–13)

Negatively, God strengthens us against evil. Positively, God strengthens us to serve. The strength you need most today is not meant for you to keep for yourself, but to expend for the good of others. When God showers us with his grace and sends us his strength, he means for it to be spent in love on the needs and interests of people in our lives. When we use the strength we receive from God to serve others (and not ourselves) in Jesus’s name, he gets the glory (Matthew 5:16). We serve “by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).

Strengthened to speak

The Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. (2 Timothy 4:17)

We don’t only serve in God’s strength. He also strengthens us to say something about him. We don’t need strength merely to do the right thing — at home, at work, in our neighborhood — but to speak up about with courage and boldness about Jesus. When you ask God for the strength to do what he has called you to do today, remember your first and greatest calling: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Strengthened for Every Circumstance

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

When Saul “increased all the more in strength” as a new believer and ambassador for Christ, God was strengthening and equipping him to face anything — hunger and plenty, need and abundance. It’s a reminder that we need this strength as much in blessing as we do in suffering, as much in success as we do in failure, as much in health as we do in sickness.

God strengthens us not only to defy evil, and serve others, and share boldly, but to be content in every circumstance — to experience a deep and confident joy in him regardless of our weaknesses and trials.

How Do You Structure Your Prayer Life?

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 7:00pm

On any given day, innumerable needs surround us that all call for prayer. So how do we navigate these endless needs and decide what to pray for?

Listen Now

The Pathway from Porn to Adultery: Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:00am

Dear Husband,

You know why I am writing to you. In our last conversation, you shared the pattern of your sinful thoughts, and how it often leads you to look at pornography. We agreed together on the importance of having dominion over our imaginations and putting on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Viewing pornography is already a lamentable breach of your faithfulness to your wife, but I’m concerned it may only be the beginning.

I fear for you, and your wife, if you do not repent from these patterns of sin. Beyond the pornography, members of our church have noticed how you seem to be preoccupied with other women. They and I fear for how you shower them with flattery, which many perceive as flirting. You appear to be on a pathway that ends with adultery as you already betray a lack of fidelity to your bride.

Sin Always Begets Sin

Viewing pornography is not a stagnant sin. Sin begets more sin, because our hearts are desperately wicked. We will justify the temptations in our hearts unless we combat them. Rationalization is part of the self-deception of sin. How easily we think, This is not that bad, then soon, Not bad at all. Eventually, we are saying, It is a good thing that I desire.

My friend, learn to hate your sin. You must treat it with a kind of seriousness that your seared conscience may find difficult to feel at this point. You must guard your mouth, and heart, as you speak to other women in the congregation, going out of your way to treat them as sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1).

You must also resolve to control, God helping you, what you set your eyes upon, remembering righteous Job, who took the temptation to look with lust seriously: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). Obedience to our Lord, and faithfulness to your wife, is not passive. You will not coast into faithfulness.

You Are Free

Instead of exploring the pleasures of sin in your mind, and in unrighteous conversations, combat that sin with another voice, a better one: the voice of God himself. Meditate on his words in Scripture. God’s own word, by the power of his Spirit, will be the most potent source for both feeling conviction over sin and growing in grace and love.

Remember Joseph. When he was tempted daily by his master’s wife, he considered how God had blessed him, and how his master trusted him, and concluded, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Your infidelity is not only a breach of trust against your wife, but against God almighty.

But because Jesus Christ is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure, you have been redeemed — a hostage freed through a ransom paid at infinite cost. In Jesus, you are holy! I believe your faith is genuine, even as you have struggled in these ways. You are free from the bondage of sin; now be free. You are no longer enslaved to your old master Satan to follow your lusts. You are free, really free, in Christ. You now have the mind and heart to seek after God, to follow him in the ways he teaches us, and to reject the fatal promises of pornography and adultery.

You Are Not Alone

Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd of the Faith, has promised to be with you and guide you to all truth and fruitful works along the way. His commandments will help you walk in the ways of holiness and righteousness.

The child of God is not burdened in striving to keep the commandments of God; we are burdened, as you have been, when we do not keep them. God’s work in us does not replace our own vigilance against sin. His grace empowers us to be on guard against sin. Although sin no longer reigns in us, it still remains inside of us. The warning to Cain is for all of us: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Painted Poison

The temptation to be drawn toward other women, on the screen and in the fellowship hall, is defiling your marriage bed. God’s word says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). I am praying for you, and will continue to hold you accountable.

Your confession of love to your wife, and the preciousness and pricelessness of your affection for each other, will soon sound hollow if you linger here on the door of adultery. Adultery is a selfish act. It is profoundly unloving. You betray and wound your wife, and your children, and you defy your God. You aid the Enemy of the faith and give ample opportunity for the world to blaspheme his name through your open hypocrisy.

Sin is your enemy, and deceives you with its false promises of joy. It paints itself beautifully, but it is poison. The consequences will be deep and long-lasting. Look beyond the empty offers of momentary pleasure and see the enduring pain. Remember how it has brought shame, guilt, and disruption to your communion with Christ. Remember your marriage vows and resolve afresh to be utterly faithful to your wife. God will bless and reward your faithfulness.

Learn to Love Her More

If you struggle with the degree of intimacy you have with her, be a man and have that hard conversation. Share your heart. She is your great companion for life. She was given to you as that special help both physically and spiritually. God has made her, and will continue to make her, suitable for you, and you for her.

Sin’s evil progression has been at work in you. But our Lord’s offer of repentance is immediate. Receive it now while you still can (Hebrews 12:16–17). True repentance is a radical renouncing of all that is contrary to the character and revelation of God. It requires discipline that grows in the soil of God’s grace.

So, go now to him in your time of need to receive his help continually and abundantly. Do not cry out only, but purposely labor to walk in his Spirit. Exercise your faithfulness in marriage as you love and cherish your wife. Love her and consider the many ways that Christ has beautified your wife and made her a vessel of honor in his glorious Body. Your love for her is a gift you, and you only, can enjoy. The omnipotent God stands ready to help you as you seek to live out the calling he has given you in your marriage covenant.

As you love your wife, and exercise that love with patience and tenderness, you will find new depths of love for her and discover joys in her that no other woman can provide.