Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

You are here:

Head Heart Hand

Subscribe to Head Heart Hand feed
David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

Reformation Women

20 hours 27 min ago

This is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Reformation Women.

Most Christians are familiar with the idea of the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). But I wonder if the church today realizes the gift that it is. We can often feel like we are running our race, way down at the bottom of the huge stadium, and all the saints triumphant are way up in the stands, so distant that we can’t see their faces. And the race can be so hard that sometimes we can’t hear the cheers.

But the cloud of witnesses watching us are not spectators who show up in the hope that they get to see someone break a record. They are not there to be impressed or intimidate. They are there to encourage. It’s not like someone buying tickets to a professional sports event to enjoy the crowd and the hot dogs. It’s like a mother at the track meet cheering on a nervous daughter who is working hard. God gave us the cloud of witnesses partly because it helps to know that another Christian walked the same, hard road and made it safely to glory. It helps to have great grandmothers in the faith.

That is what I hope the figures in Reformation Women become for many Christians today. In a day when gender and identity are confused and confusing, these women bring us clarity. We tend to think of our own time—this era of church history—as unique in its problem of sorting out women’s roles. Different churches and denominations have different approaches—even for groups that are complementarian, there can be large differences and disagreements. But the church has dealt with this matter before: the Reformation was a period of huge social adjustment as Roman Catholic tradition dealing with women’s roles fell apart under a scriptural examination. Runaway nuns, female mystics, and powerful Roman Catholic queens revealed real issues confronting early Protestantism.

As the church developed a biblical understanding of womanhood, Protestant women lived out the full scope and power of that womanhood in Christian witness. Women educated themselves and their children. They wrote and published theological works. They rebuked heretics. They ruled. They directed armies, fighting wars to defend religious freedom for their Church. They understood their Bibles, creeds, and theology; critical Roman Catholics were often silenced by biblical examples and principles that gave these women a holy legitimacy.

A range of personalities, abilities, and positions give us a sample spectrum of what faithful, strong service to Christ and His Church looked like then. These same principles and examples are invaluable for helping women today bear fruit within the broad boundaries that God gives us in His Word.

But these women are not just examples; their lives are encouragements to us. Few 21st century women will ever lead an army or lecture in Latin. But our daily struggles are the struggles of women since Eve. It is hard to find a situation in today’s church that a believing woman did not have to deal with in the 1500’s. Sexual, physical, and spiritual abuse; abandonment; difficult marriage; infertility; dead babies; apostate children; poverty; church conflict; chronic illness; war; slander—someone went through it then, and went through it faithfully. We don’t face any temptations today that aren’t common to women through history (1 Cor. 10:13). When we see others’ lives, we can often see how God used suffering to sanctify them and build up the church. It give us perspective, models, and comfort.

This should be a huge encouragement for us. God gave us these women’s stories as part of our spiritual heritage. They weren’t perfect, but they were striving after the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14). We can enjoy their stories and learn from them, knowing that they see us walk through many of the same things and cheer us on in faithfulness. Thank the Lord for giving us people whom we can follow as they followed Christ.

Buy Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard here.

Check out

21 hours 27 min ago
Blogs

Pastoral Leadership Capital
How does a leader accumulate leadership capital and how does he spend it? Here’s Part 1.

Three Limits of Social Media as a Medium
In sum: (1) Social media deceives us, (2) Social media distracts us, and (3) Social media drowns us. On a related topic, here are Four reasons to bring your Bible to church.

It’s Time to Admit That Screens Are Just Digital Pacifiers
One of a cascade of articles on this issue. Hopefully not too late. As Jessica Burke says: “We need to be honest about kids and their devices. They are addicted, and parents are to blame.”

How God’s World Enriches My Experience of God’s Word
In the first four verses of Psalm 19, we encounter four truths that encourage us to look up from our phones and soak in God’s creative splendor.

Six Ways to Avoid Delayed Adulthood
1. Wake Up: Desire
2. Sign Up: Commitment
3. Show Up: Faithfulness
4. Shut Up: Humility
5. Step Up: Courage
6. Get Up: Resilience

The Surprising Link Between Broken Families and America’s Opioid Crisis
Harm-reduction and law enforcement are a losing battle because our society’s saturation with opioids inadvertently unmasked a dormant, lingering pain: the breakup of American families.

Before You Agree to Take on New Work, Ask 3 Questions
1. What is my motivation?
2. Does it align with my values?
3. Do I have a choice?

Kindle Books

Reset for Parents: How to Keep Your Kids from Backsliding by Todd Friel $2.99. No relation to my own book.

Adoniram Judson by Jason Duesing $1.99.

Video

How God Saved David Powlison From Destroying Himself
Click on the above a link for a transcript.

The Four Essentials of a Successful Atonement

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 8:56am

What are the key ingredients of any successful atonement for sin?

In Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement George Smeaton identifies four vital components, and proves that the Gospels set these forth.

1. They must be faultless sufferings, corresponding to the character of Him to whom the satisfaction required to be made;

2. They must be painful and ignominious to the last degree.

3. They must have an unlimited worth or value derived from the dignity of the sufferer.

4. They must accurately correspond to the declarations of God.

Smeaton then demonstrates how the Gospels were written to prove how Christ’s atonement met all four requirements

1. Christ’s faultless sufferings are proven by the declarations of innocence by Pilate, Pilate’s wife, Herod, and Judas.

2. The painful ignominy is established by the Gospels’ descriptions of all the indignities heaped upon Christ at his trial, and in the way the sentence was carried out.

3. The immeasurable dignity of the sufferer is confirmed by Christ’s priestly prayers and sacrifice, as well as the salvation of the thief on the cross. It is also seen in his royal flattening of his enemies in the garden, his protection of his disciples, and the centurion’s exclamation, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

4. Christ’s atoning death matches the Old Testament prophecies, as the Gospel writers repeatedly record.

Smeaton’s point here is to prove that it’s not just the Epistles that explain the atonement but that the Gospels do too, primarily by the historical facts that they narrate, more than by doctrinal discourse.

However, the Gospels don’t rely exclusively on historical narrative. The evangelists also record the sayings of Christ which express his own thoughts on his atoning death, and indicate the design, aim, and motive of his actions.

Smeaton says that these sayings supply “not only an objective outline of His work in its nature and results, but also a glimpse of the very heart of His activity…they disclose His inner thoughts, and convey the absolute truth upon the subject of the atonement.”

If, as Smeaton says, “[Christ's] work was fully and adequately known only to His own mind,” should we not pay particular attention to Christ’s doctrine of the atonement? That’s what Smeaton invites us to do in Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (buy at RHB or free ebook at Monergism).

Check out

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 8:12am
Blogs

Beyond the Lights: Celebrities and Mental Illness
A look at how celebrities have responded to mental illness:

No amount of money, power, or fame can make you happy or protect you from a mental illness. But what we can also learn from this is that people with mental illness are not alone, and most do not allow their illness to stop them from living and achieving their dreams.

This popular social network ranks as the worst for young people’s mental health
Instagram, an app that people use to share photos of their lives as seen through a series of flattering filters, was rated worst for the mental health of young people in a study by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K.

Emotional Intelligence Is The Real Secret To Getting Promoted Faster
This rings true:

In a 2011 Career Builder survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers and HR professionals, 71% said they valued emotional intelligence over IQ in general, and 75% said they’re typically more likely to promote an employee with high emotional intelligence and a comparatively lower IQ than one where that ratio is flipped.

Stretched Thin? Why Seeking Coherence over “Life Balance” is the Answer
The key is vocation, vocation, vocation:

72 percent of women say they are overwhelmed by stress. I’m suspicious of the remaining 28 percent. Women living in a world noisy with conflicting directives to excel in their career, be a doting wife and super mom, invest in their communities, and develop their personal potential will inevitably experience some confusion about their calling and identity.

John Knox and the Women Who Loved Him
Simonetta Carr defends John Knox from charges of misogyny:

Why did these and many other women express so much love toward a man who blew a fierce trumpet against female rulers? Maybe it’s because he needed, valued, respected them, and understood their struggles, offering at the same time warm and candid pastoral care.

Don’t Waste Your Life Following Your Passion
Why you probably shouldn’t listen to commencement speakers

It is the time of year where graduations abound. Commencement speakers and familial advice-givers are saying things like: “Follow your passion!” “Chase your dreams!” “Focus on being true to yourself!” “You can change the world!” On the whole, such admonitions are dreadful advice and will paralyze, not liberate, those who embrace them.

Eliminating the Human
Tim Challies sees an opening for the church in a world of increasing automation:

In a world of impersonal automation, we [the church] form communities of real presence. In a world that is eliminating so many forms of human interaction, we promote it, embrace it, and invite others to experience it. The more technology continues down this path, the more the church will stand out in beautiful, living contrast.

4 Keys to Finishing Strong in Ministry – LifeWay Pastors
“To finish strong later we need to avoid some common mistakes now. Here are four of the most common I have noticed.”

Kindle Books

Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck $3.99.

Real Christianity by William Wilberforce $0.79.

Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews by Jeff Myers $1.59.

What did Christ Believe About the Atonement?

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 2:00am

One of the most influential books in my life has been Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton (buy at RHB or free ebook at Monergism). I started reading it during the the first hour of the first day of my first week of Gospel ministry in 1995 and it continues to influence me to this day. I had no idea how much Christ himself had taught about his own atonement. I had always assumed that he’d left most of the teaching on it to his apostles. Not so. In almost 500 pages, Smeaton proved how Christ not only did the atonement, but taught about it continually as well.

Doctrinal Day-Dreaming
George Smeaton had always intrigued me. (If you wish to more about Smeaton, there is a biography written by Free Church of Scotland historian, John Keddie.)  I first came across his name at daily chapel in the Free Church College in Edinburgh, where I usually sat beside a display cabinet containing many “icons and artifacts” of Scottish Presbyterian history. Among them was a piece of paper which, if I recall, was the founding document of a Saturday morning “Exegetical Society.”

In it, signatories such as George Smeaton, Horatius Bonar, Robert Murray McChyene and other Scottish Presbyterian luminaries committed to gather at 6am every Saturday morning to exegete some passage of Scripture in the original languages. During the sometimes dreary chapels, I often day-dreamed my way into that gathering of great minds and holy hearts. What I would have given to have been a fellow-student of theirs in the mid-1800′s!

Given such a background, it’s little wonder that the outstanding strength of Smeaton’s writing on the atonement is his exegetical rigor. His exegesis demonstrated to me how verses I had thoughtlessly passed over were absolutely packed with theology, specifically with the doctrine of the atonement. Many’s a sermon idea that germinated in my mind as I slowly read my way through about ten pages a day over many weeks.

Christ’s Viewpoint on His Work
In his preface to Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, Smeaton notes that prior to his volume there had been little or no emphasis upon Christ’s own teaching on the atonement. Rather there was an almost exclusive focus upon the Apostolic development of the doctrine. The only exceptions were the heretics who focused on the Lord’s sayings with a view to getting evidence to support their anti-penal-substitution falsehoods!

Smeaton’s work, as is the case with so many classic theological works, arose out of a desire to defeat heresies and rescue what he calls “the central truth of Christianity and the great theme of Scripture.” However, he keeps his focus on the Bible and draws out his doctrine from the Gospels, not in opposition to false teachers. As he put it:

We here inquire simply what Jesus taught. We do not ask what one eminent church teacher or another propounded, but what the great Master said. We turn away our eye from every lower source of knowledge, whether called Christian consciousness, feeling, or reason, to the truth embodied in the consciousness and words of Jesus.

He divided his work into eight main divisions (the bold headings are my 21st century summaries of 19th century wordiness):

1. The Sources: The sources of our knowledge in the recorded sayings of Jesus, and the mode of investigation.

2. The Presuppositions: The postulates or presuppositions of the whole doctrine. Under this chapter we shall notice, in separate sections, the great fact of sin for which a provision is made, the necessity of the atonement, the harmony of love and justice, the unique covenant-position of Jesus, and the influence of His Deity in the matter of the atonement.

3. The Elements. The constituent elements of the atonement, represented under a variety of sections, as consisting of sin-bearing and sinless obedience.

4. The Individual Effects. The effects or consequences of the atonement on the invidual Christian, both in an objective and subjective point of view that is, in respect of the acceptance of His person, and the renovation of his nature by the communication of divine life.

5. The Wider Influence. The influence of the atonement on other interests in the universe, in reversing the previous order of things, in the conquest of Satan, in procuring the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the like.

6. The Success. The actual efficacy of the atonement, or the question for whom it was specially offered.

7. The Application. The application of the atonement.

8. The Acceptance or Rejection. The endless happiness or woe of mankind decided by its reception or rejection; and the influence exercised by this great event on morals and religion.

As part of my passion to make profound theology accessible, in the coming months I hope to present Smeaton’s teaching in simplified and summarized form with the hope not only of resuscitating Smeaton for modern readers, but also of reviving the still neglected teaching of Christ about his own atoning work.

Grace-Paced Life Links

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 1:00am

Trying not to Drown in a Flood of Breaking News
No solutions here but the cartoon sums up what we’re all struggling with:

One of the remedies for burnout that I explore in Reset is friendship. Although, as Kelly Needham admits, True Friendship is Hard to Find, there are many motivations and advantages to pursuing it:

1. True friends heighten our joy in God.
2. True friends expose sin in us that keeps us from God.
3. True friends encourage us to obey God.
4. True friends bring us to God in our weakness.
5. True friends love us for the glory of God.

In How To Get Away From It All, Michael Hyatt looks back on a surprising vacation and identifies five ways in which it helped him reboot his soul:

  • I went someplace beautiful.
  • I was fully present.
  • I had deep conversations.
  • We spent time alone.
  • I had an adventure.

Quite a few recent articles on the necessity and advantages of a weekly Sabbath. In Better than Busy: Recovering Rest in a Burnout Culture, Colin Noble says:

Our digital age simply offers new manifestations of the age-old temptation to usurp God’s role for ourselves. But against this age-old temptation, God offers an age-old response: what would happen to our 24/7 switched-on world if the people who came to Jesus for rest (Matthew 11:28) regularly took a day of rest from distraction, work, and busyness? What would this weekly habit have to offer to the world in which we find ourselves — a world that restlessly continues to search for peace amid busyness?

He offers four reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath.

1. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we desire God.
2. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we trust God.
3. Taking a weekly day of rest proclaims Christ’s supremacy.
4. Taking a weekly day of rest declares our freedom.

Here’s Tim Keller on The Power of Deep Rest

Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath. Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities. It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph—otherwise you will feel guilty for taking time off, or you will be unable to truly unplug.

And Ian Hamilton on the Sabbath as The Foundation of Godliness.

We live in a mad, bad world. Equip yourself to face it and not be overwhelmed by it, by honouring the Sabbath day, and by imitating the example of the Saviour, who ‘often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ He needed to, and he did. We need to and we must.

Sleep continues to fill the headlines as more and more are realizing how important it is for human flourishing on every level. Apparently Beauty Sleep is a Real Thing. A couple of bad nights is enough to make a person look “significantly” more ugly. To make maters worse, that puts people off from socializing with you! And if that’s not bad enough, Reducing Sleep also makes you hungry. So what to do if you’re an insomniac? Here’s a excellent article on Sleep Disorders and the Glory of God.

Pastors especially will want to read about The Best Way to Avoid Pastor Burnout.

Mark Elfstrand interviewed me about Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.

And here are a few reflections on Reset, one by Scott Slayton, one by Josh Reich, and one by Mike Leake.

More Grace-Pace Life Resources here.

Seven Ways the Old Testament Deepens our Love for Jesus

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 8:00am

One of the ways that children sometimes try to deepen their relationship with their parents is to travel back to where their father or mother grew up. They might visit historical societies, read archives, and gather newspaper stories and artifacts from old friends. Doing so, they build a bigger and better picture of their father or mother and experience a deeper sense of connection with them and love for them.

In a similar way, Christians go back to the Old Testament to build a bigger and better picture of Jesus Christ. By connecting with his past, we connect better with him and deepen our love for him. The Old Testament connects us with Jesus’ past in the following ways:

1. We are reading Jesus’ Bible: The 39 books of the Old Testament are the Scriptures he heard and read. These are the verses he memorized. This was his Sunday school syllabus. He fed his hungry soul on the Law, the Prophets, and the Poets. They nourished and edified him.

2. We are learning Jesus’ language: Jesus was so familiar with the Old Testament that his vocabulary was saturated with Old Testament words and concepts. He spoke the Old Testament, taught the Old Testament, applied the Old Testament, and consciously and deliberately fulfilled the Old Testament. Like Bunyan, if you were to prick him, he would “bleed Bibline.”

3. We are singing Jesus’ songs: The Psalms were Jesus’ hymnbook. They were what He worshipped with in the Temple and Synagogue. He used them to express faith, hope and trust; but also fear, anxiety, and even abandonment. He sang them on the eve of his death and even many of his last words were Psalm words.

4. We are feeling Jesus’ feelings: Paul prayed that he might know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10). One of the best ways to do this is to read the Psalms that predict Christ’s sufferings, especially the emotional sufferings, the agony of human betrayal and desertion, and ultimately the horror of divine abandonment (e.g. Ps. 22, 69). We feel Christ’s feelings there in a an even deeper way than in the Gospels.

5. We are hearing Jesus’ voice: We must banish the false idea that it’s God the Father who speaks in the Old Testament and it’s God the Son who speaks in the New. Even if we say that it’s the voice of the triune God we hear in the Old Testament, the Son’s voice is equally joined to the Father’s and the Spirit’s. However, we can go further and say that it is God the Son who is specially speaking in the Old Testament. He is the Word of God, the usual way God speaks to sinners, the one mediator between God and man. “Thus says the Lord” effectively means “Thus says the Messiah.” (Rev. 19:10).

6. We are seeing Jesus in action: The Son of God visited the earth as the Angel of the Lord at least 20 times (and maybe many more times that are not recorded). We can see what kind of Savior he was in human form long before he came in human flesh as he frequently brought gracious messages and powerful help to his needy people.

7. We are admiring Jesus’ trophies: In some ways the Old Testament saints are even more amazing than New Testament saints. When you think of how little truth they had, how little of the Holy Spirit they had, how few the believers were, and how rare their encouragements, it’s utterly amazing that they believed in the coming Messiah and kept believing. It can only be explained by the almighty work of Christ in the soul by his Holy Spirit. His Old Testament trophies of grace shine with a special luster in his “showcase.”

Open the Bible at Genesis, travel back in time, connect with Christ in the Old Testament, deepen your relationship with him, and increase the heat of your love for him.

Check out

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 7:12am
Blogs

Giving and Receiving Commendation
As with every other important part of our lives, Scripture has much to teach us about how to give and receive commendation.

Biblical Womanhood Doesn’t Begin and End in Proverbs 31
“Biblical womanhood does not begin and end in Proverbs 31. It starts in Genesis — it ends in Revelation. It is found in the entire redemptive story.”

Smelling the Gospel Flowers in Proverbs | TGC
Erik Raymond slows down enough to find the Gospel in Proverbs.

10 Things Church Members Want from Their Pastor

  • A church wants to know that their pastor loves them.
  • Effective preaching requires adequate time for preparation.
  • Much of a pastor’s ministry is judged as effective or not based upon the preaching ministry.
  • Social media background checks are becoming standard when hiring a pastor.
  • We are leaving a blueprint of our lives when we interact on social media.
  • An organization without a path forward becomes an uneasy organization.
  • A lot of people can have great ideas. Not many people can execute them, too.
  • There is nothing wrong with having fun as a leader.
  • Most leaders are not transparent enough.

The Parable of Anthony Weiner’s iPhone
When it comes to pornography and the hook up culture, digitization is weaponization, and for many of us, winning the war against sexual nihilism in our communities and our own souls might mean refusing to even pick up the weapons.

The Power of Deep Rest
Tim Keller:

Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath. Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities. It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph—otherwise you will feel guilty for taking time off, or you will be unable to truly unplug.

On the same subject, here’s Ian Hamilton on the sabbath as The Foundations of Godliness.

We live in a mad, bad world. Equip yourself to face it and not be overwhelmed by it, by honouring the Sabbath day, and by imitating the example of the Saviour, who ‘often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ He needed to, and he did. We need to and we must.

Kindle Books

Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God by Dan Ortlund $5.99. I loved this book…and the next one.

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis by John Piper $2.99.

The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts by Joe Rigney $3.99.

Our Pleasure Gives Pleasure to God

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:56am

“God wishes us to take true pleasure with him in our salvation, and in this he wishes us to be greatly comforted and strengthened, and so he wants our souls to be happily filled with this, through his grace; for we are his delight; he takes pleasure in us eternally, and so shall we in him, through his grace.” Julian of Norwich.

A “vicious circle” is a chain of events which each make a situation worse than before. A “virtuous” circle does the opposite; it creates an upward spiral of increasingly favorable results. It’s the latter that Julian describes here:

  1. We take pleasure in our salvation by God
  2. God takes pleasure in our pleasure in our salvation.
  3. We take pleasure in His pleasure.
  4. God takes pleasure in our pleasure.

And on and on it goes, ever upwards, ever increasing joy and delight in one another. A mutual pleasure that doesn’t end in this world and goes on forever in the world to come.

Just as a Father takes pleasure in the happiness of his children, so God takes pleasure in our happiness. Just as children love to make their father happy, so we love to make God happy. Yes, you can make God happy by enjoying yourself in the pleasures He has provided for you in grace and in providence.

The more you receive and celebrate God’s pleasure, the more pleasure you give to Him.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:11)

Check out

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 8:42am
Blogs

Women Use Porn Too
“We must stop assuming pornography is a men’s problem, because it’s not. It’s a human problem.”

Q&A: How Do We Ask for Help When Living with Mental Illness?
Amy Simpson answers the following question:

Our daughter has a mental illness, and our whole family has had to make adjustments to help her. There are times when she does really well, especially when she does what her doctor recommends: gets enough rest, eats well, and works with her therapist. But sometimes things are really hard, and this has a big impact on all of us. We haven’t told many people about our daughter’s illness, but it would be nice if we could have some help and support from our church and from other people we know. But how do we help our church and community understand what we need? We aren’t sure ourselves!

Set the Soundtrack of Your Mind
Leave your mind on autopilot, and distractions will dictate your life. Set your mind above, and God will.

5 Principles for Disciplining Your Children
“Through my years of working with kids, five guiding principles helped me as a counselor, teacher, and especially as a mom. While not all methods work for all children, I’ve found these principles work for a variety of children, regardless of their age, sex, or disposition.”

Denzel: Your Phone Is Changing You
“Study after study has shown that too much time on our phones has profound effects on our physical health, including (but not limited to) inactivity and obesity, stress and anxiety, sleeplessness and restlessness, bad posture and sore necks, eye strain and headaches, hypertension and stress-induced shallow breathing patterns. The physical consequences of our unwise smartphone habits often go unnoticed, because in the matrix of the digital world, we simply lose a sense of our bodies, our posture, our breathing, and our heart rates. Our overwhelming focus on projected images causes negligence with regard to our bodies.”

U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This
“Sociologists who surveyed undergraduate syllabuses from 2004 and 2010 found that in 2004, 14 percent addressed issues related to classroom etiquette; six years later, that number had more than doubled, to 33 percent. This phenomenon crosses socio-economic lines. My colleagues at Stanford gripe as much as the ones who teach at state schools, and students from more privileged backgrounds are often the worst offenders.”

A Story of Slavery in Modern America
“She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.”

How God Uses Questions in the Bible
“God uses questions to force us to confront our own hearts. He questions us not because He needs to know or understand something about what’s going on, but because He wants us to know and understand the truth of what’s going on. Through questions, God forces us to turn our gaze on ourselves, our hearts, and our motivations. He makes us look deeply into ourselves, knowing that He already knows, and then own up to that which we have either been unable or unwilling to see previously.”

Beauty sleep is a real thing
A couple of bad nights is enough to make a person look “significantly” more ugly, sleep experiments suggest.

Kindle Books

Glorifying God in Your Body by Al Martin $5.99. See my foreword here.

The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson $5.99.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott $3.99.

Also, Ligonier’s Reformation Study Bible, which is available in NKJV, is available for 50% of this week.

Video

Why the Book of Psalms is Like no Other Biblical Book

The Connection Between Stress and Immorality

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 6:58am

You can read a transcript of this video at Crossway’s blog. Apologies for the scary thumbnail.

Check Out

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 6:55am
Blogs

Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus | Srini Pillay, HBR
“In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.”

The Best Discoveries Begin as Problems: How to Read Proverbs | John Piper, Desiring God
Why would a book that aims to impart insight for wise living (Proverbs 1:2–3) put contradictory instructions back-to-back? I can think of at least seven reasons.

The Kids Are Not Okay—and Neither Is America | Collin Hansen, TGC
A review of Senator Ben Sasse’s new book The Vanishing American Adult. And Alex Chediak offers his own take in Sen. Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult Offers Timely Solutions.

Do we really need another book about entitled millennials? Or about the helicopter parents who raise these precious darlings? Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance exceeds expectations. It challenges both parents and our culture, offering compelling and timely solutions.

Andy Crouch on How to Become a Tech-Wise Family | Collin Hansen, TGC
“In order to survive and even thrive in our information age, Andy Crouch believes the church must become more like a family, and the family must become more like a church. His new book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, explains how wise, discerning handling of new-media technology will cultivate wisdom and courage. The home, he says, must limit technology in order to delight in God, neighbor, family, and nature. The church, he says, will not enjoy authentic community unless it disciples Christians in countercultural living when it comes to our TVs, video games, and smartphones.”

I Took a Week Off from Social Media (and Survived) | Brandon D. Smith, Patheos
“…after that week off, I decided to keep my social media accounts, hoping to absorb the good and reject the bad that comes along with them. But in the week I spent almost entirely away from them, I counted the cost of a life with almost no social media engagement, and I was richer for it. And if you asked my family, friends, and people I do offline life with, they’d agree.”

Fast from Food, Not Facebook | Tim Challies
I’m almost convinced by Tim’s argument here:

“…we are to fast from food for this simple reason: Food is something we need, not merely something we want. You may want to use Facebook, but you need to eat food. Thus, in fasting you are withholding from yourself something you need (food) in order to pursue something you need even more (communion with God).”

How the Average Working Adult Spends Days | FlowingData

How I Leverage My Autism for Pastoral Ministry | Lamar Hardwick, CT Pastors
“On Monday, December 22, 2014, I walked into the office of my therapist. I sat down on her couch with my wife by my side. I took a long deep breath and slowly exhaled, waiting for answers to my 36-year-long question. She grabbed her clip board, glanced over the assessments we had completed in weeks prior, looked me in the eye, and uttered three words that changed my life: ‘autism spectrum disorder.’ While the diagnosis didn’t change who I was, it did change my understanding of who I had been. In many ways, I have spent the years since that diagnosis learning myself all over again.”

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon ($1.99)


Drawn By The Father by James R. White ($2.99)


Judges For You (God’s Word For You) by Timothy Keller ($2.99)

The Most Sympathetic Man in the World

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 2:00am

We don’t need to suffer with an illness or a disease to feel at least some of the pain of it. For example, if we see a blind person, we pause, we think about what it must be like to have no sight, we imagine their life, and, to some degree we feel the pain of blindness.

Same thing happens when we see a veteran with no legs. If we pause long enough to run that experience through our minds, our hearts register pain. That’s called sympathy, which is literally “suffering alongside someone.”

Excruciating Sympathy
Sympathy is the second way that Christ experienced the pain of illness and disease, though he was never ill or diseased (see yesterday’s post). His sympathy with suffering produced suffering through sympathy.

By sympathy, another’s bodily sufferings became his mental, emotional, and spiritual sufferings. “In all their afflictions, he was afflicted” (lsa.63:9). He experienced their pain and sorrow without experiencing their sickness and disease. He could truly say to every sick person, “I feel your pain.” Thomas Goodwin explained:

By sympathy and pity he afflicted himself with their sickness as if it had been his own…Through a fellow-feeling of it, He took it off from them, being for them afflicted as if He himself had been sick.

Indeed, we can go further and say that he felt more pain than the sick and diseased because he had perfect humanity and therefore a better understanding of the medical problem and heightened sensitivity to the agonies of it.

To illustrate, think of a mother in a doctor’s office with her four-year-old daughter when the doctor breaks the news that the little girls has cancer. The girl had no understanding of this and continues playing on the floor with her toys. The mother feels the pain of cancer so much more due to her maturity and experience. The same thing will happen throughout the surgery, radiation, and chemo.  Though the child will suffer some pain, the mother will suffer more pain.

Expert Sympathy
Christ was an expert sympathizer. People detected his compassion and pity and were drawn to him. They could see that he entered into their sufferings and sorrows as no one else did. He thus qualifies to be a merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 4:14; 5:2).

Expiatory Sympathy
Christ’s sufferings through sympathy were not wasted sufferings. They were part of his atoning work. When he saw suffering, he suffered “a little Calvary” in his mind and heart, pains that were part of his curse-bearing life and offered up to his father as substitutionary sufferings for his people.

Exhausting Sympathy
Like all sympathy, Christ’s was exhausting. His sighs and groans in the face of human pain expressed the drain of virtue that exited his being and weakened him. Spurgeon explained:

I can say from personal experience, that I know of nothing that wears the soul down so fast as the outflow of sincere sympathy with the sorrowing, desponding, depressed ones. I have sometimes been the means in God’s hand of helping a man who suffered with a desponding spirit; but the help I have rendered has cost me dearly. Hours after, I have been myself depressed, and I have felt an inability to shake it off. You and I have not a thousandth-part of the sympathy that was in Christ.

Yesterday we saw how Christ’s experience of sinless infirmities brought him near to the weak and weary, drawing us to him. Today, we’ve noticed a further drawing power in his perfect pity, his sensitive sympathy, by which he felt more pain by sympathy than the sufferer felt by the actual disease or illness.

Check out

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Should Pastors Use Social Media?
I loved this paragraph by Tony Reinke:

Someone recently asked me, what’s the one takeaway from writing your book on smartphones, about technology and the future of Christianity, and I think it’s this point. The average, ordinary local church plays a significant role in the counter-cultural resistance movement against the most corruptive trends we now face in the digital age. The local church is precious! That’s the summary of three years of research and writing and I hope is an impactful point readers take from my new book.

The Best Way To Avoid Pastor Burnout? Equip The Saints
“Neither information or inspiration is enough. Pastors need to help congregations turn it into perspiration.”

Only Jesus Can Answer Our Call for Personal Identity
We are not what we consume. We are not what we achieve. We are not what others think. We are who we have been chosen to be: children of God!

Christ’s Help for Sabbath-Keeping
“No other day in history has been so set apart and specially blest: make sure that on the Sabbath, you fellowship with His flock, listen to God’s voice, come away with Christ.”

Do We Need to Raise Tougher Children?
“Parents do not need to manufacture challenging circumstances for their children to learn; life produces plenty of them. However, parents do need God’s wisdom on when to let their children endure a difficult situation.”

Is There a Silver Bullet of Sanctification?
Nine perennial candidates that tempt us to think, “This one thing is the secret key that will unlock your Christian life!”

Kindle Books

The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament $2.99.

The Truth About Forgiveness by John Macarthur $1.99.

New Book

Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God by Courtney Reissig.

Was Jesus Ever Ill?

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 9:00am

Did Jesus ever have a cold or the flu? Was it possible for him to contract cancer or diabetes?

The answer to that question begins by identifying the four possible states of human nature:

1. Unfallen human nature: The perfect humanity that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall.

2. Fallen human nature: The cursed humanity that Adam and Eve experienced post-fall and passed down to all their descendants.

3. Saved human nature: Still a fallen humanity but it’s now in the process of being redeemed.

4. Glorified human nature: Not just restored to the perfection of unfallen human nature but something even more exalted and wonderful.

So which kind of human nature did Jesus have? He didn’t have a saved human nature because he did not need to be saved. He has a glorified human nature now in heaven, but he did not have that on earth. So we’re left with two options – unfallen human nature or fallen human nature. Which was it?

Luke 1:35 supplies the answer. There, an angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Perfect Genetics
Christ had a holy and unfallen human nature. The intervention of the Holy Spirit in his conception ensured that his humanity was without sin and, therefore, without corruption. Jesus did not inherit any mental, physical, genetic, chemical, electrical, or biological infirmity from Mary and and none developed in him. He was never infected with germs, viruses, or disease and he did not transmit them either.

In Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, one of the greatest books ever written on the atonement, George Smeaton wrote:

He saw no corruption, either living or dead – for sickness or disease could not, as a personal quality attach to the sinless One…Disease could not touch Him, because He did not come within the power of sin in the world; and hence we never read of His contracting any distemper or disease like other men.

His body did not see corruption in he grave and it did not see corruption in life either. He was a lamb without blemish (1 Peter 1:19) and a priest without defect (Lev. 21:17). In a sermon on Matthew 8:16-17, Charles Spurgeon put it like this:

Do not think that our Lord Jesus was actually diseased: he suffered greatly, but I read not was upon him. Probably there was no man in whom there was less tendency to natural disease than in him. His pure and blessed body was not subject to the diseases which are brought upon men through sin being in them.

This being so, we can say that Christ would actually never have died unless he had consciously chosen to voluntarily give up his life to death—which, of course, is what he did (John 10:17-18). He would have aged in the sense of growing stronger from infancy to manhood, but he would not have aged in the sense of growing weaker in his body as the decades passed.

An Alien Christ?
Does this not distance Christ from our experience? Does this not make him an “alien” to us when we need someone to identify with us in our human weakness?

There are two answers to this? The first is to distinguish between sinless infirmities (or weaknesses) and sinful (or sin-caused) infirmities. The second is to understand how Christ can perfectly sympathize with us even without actually experiencing everything that we go through. We’ll explore that further tomorrow but let’s first clarify the distinction between sinless weaknesses and sinful weaknesses.

Sinless Weaknesses

Sinless weaknesses are things like hunger, thirst, and tiredness. These were not caused by sin but were part of the experience of unfallen Adam too (though not to the painful degree we experience them now). They are part of the essence of being limited creatures.

It’s these sinless weaknesses that the Westminster Confession speaks of when it says that Christ “took upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” (WCF 8.2).

Sinful weaknesses
On the other hand, there are sinful weaknesses such as colds, flus, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dermatitis, and so on. These weaknesses are sinful in the sense that sin caused them to enter into human nature via the divine curse upon humanity for sin. They are an essential and large part of what it is to have a fallen human nature.

As such, Christ, as the Holy One, did not and could not contract these illnesses and diseases. He experienced sinless weaknesses to the maximum (especially because his perfect human nature was more tender and sensitive than fallen human nature) but he did not experience sinful weaknesses that are part of fallen human nature. He experienced weakness but not all weaknesses, and he did not need to in order to sympathize with all our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).

Bearing Sin Parallel
In The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on EarthThomas Goodwin parallels the way in which Christ could bear our sins without being personally tainted by paralleling them with the way he bore our sickness without being ever ill.

It may be said of Christ while he was here below that in the same sense or manner wherein he “bore our sickness,” Matthew 8:17, who yet was never personally tainted with any disease, in the same sense or manner he may be said to have borne our sins.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how Christ’s perfect pity also draws him near to us and us to him.

Check out

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 7:18am
Blogs

How to Unplug While You Are on Vacation
I love the email auto-delete idea.

How I Research Books
Tony Reinke takes us behind the curtain to share some fascinating insights into his writing process.

You Can Defeat Distraction
Here’s the question

Will we let our age of diversion nibble away at our very humanness? Or will we fight, in the strength God supplies (1 Peter 4:11) by his Spirit, to reset our minds to what really matters, and so makes us truly effective on earth?

The Uncomfortable Subject Jesus Addressed More than Anyone Else
“Some months ago, R. C. Sproul was asked which doctrine he struggles with most. He replied: ‘Hell.’ It’s comforting to know a theological giant like Sproul still wrestles with something I’ve struggled with my whole Christian life. The doctrine of hell is uncomfortable for most of us. However, our understanding of hell shapes our view of the gospel, God’s holiness, and our depravity. If we don’t accept the reality of hell, we won’t rightly understand the glory of the gospel.”

The Revenge of Analog Discipleship | TGC
“A new book by David Sax, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, focuses on recent movement away from digital technology and back toward “real things” like vinyl records, board games, hardcover books, and face-to-face education.”

The Particular Importance of Not Being Particularly Important | For The Church
“Allow yourself to be nobody. Have a seat at the end of the table and you might just find Jesus sitting there too.”

Why reducing sleep makes you hungry
Sleep deprivation affects not only only our minds and our moods but also our waistlines.

Kindle Books

What if Jesus had never been born? by James Kennedy $1.99.

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson $3.99.

Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus by Jared Wilson $3.99.

Whose Body? Yours or His?

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 2:00am

Here is the foreword I wrote to Pastor Al Martin’s new book Glorify God in your Body. You can buy it at Amazon for $8.95 or at Trinity Book Services for $6.95.

I count it an enormous privilege and honor to write this foreword for a man who has pastored me from the day after I became a Christian. Although I was never a member of Pastor Martin’s church in New Jersey, and only visited it twice in twenty-five years, I have devoured hundreds of Pastor Martin’s sermon tapes over the years after being introduced to them by a friend just after I was converted. His messages gripped my soul from the first moment of hearing them, with his passionate presentation of the Bible’s doctrines and duties leaving an unforgettable and indelible impression upon me.

When I was called to my first congregation, the first thing I did in my new study was start listening to Pastor Martin’s pastoral theology lectures. I took careful notes throughout the next few weeks and still consult them to this day. They set a direction for my life and ministry that I will forever be thankful for.

All of this was happening, of course, without Pastor Martin’s knowledge. I was just one of the thousands who were being transformed in hundreds of countries by Pastor Martin’s worldwide tape ministry. Little did I think that I would ever get to meet the man that I owed such a debt to on both the personal and pastoral level.

So how do I find myself now writing a foreword to my distant mentor’s latest book? Well, it’s a long story, and one neither of us could ever have written. But God’s story involved both Pastor Martin and I moving to Michigan, meeting at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, worshipping in the same church now for a few years, and, in God’s mysterious providence, becoming firm friends.

You can therefore imagine something of the joy with which I pen this foreword for a man that God has used (and still is using) so mightily in my life and that I owe so much to. As I read through this book with a view to writing this foreword, and heard Pastor Martin’s “voice” in its pages, it brought back memories of many precious hours I spent with my tape-recorder and Trinity Pulpit cassettes. It reminded me of so many of the characteristics of Pastor Martin’s ministry that had impacted me through the years: God-centered, biblical, practical, relevant, passionate, memorable, balanced and Gospel–centered.

This is a God-centered book. Unlike secular books on care for the body which are entirely focused on selfish motives and aims, Pastor Martin helps us do all that we do for the glory of God and he ultimately leads us to the worship of God.

The is a biblical book. You’ll probably be surprised at how many texts there are in the Bible relevant to this topic. Pastor Martin rounds up these scattered Scriptures and organizes them into a comprehensive theology of the body.

This is a practical book, offering numerous down-to-earth instructions to help readers in everyday life. These are not couched in vague generalities that might leave us wondering what Pastor Martin really means. No, the instructions are detailed, specific, and challenging, leaving us in no uncertainty as to what God requires.

This is a relevant book, dealing with the twin modern problems of body-neglect and body-worship. Indifference towards the body or idolatry of the body have characterized many cultures through the years, but our own seems to have taken these vices to new heights and depths.

This is a passionate book, one born out of Pastor Martin’s painful pastoral experience of seeing Christians choose unhealthy patterns of life, and experiencing premature death through failure to care for their bodies in a biblical way. You will feel him grabbing your heart in his appeals to consider the impact of your choices on spouses and children.

This is a memorable book, based as it is on an illustration of string of pierced pearls, a beautiful way of showing the connection between doctrine (the string) and practice (the pearls). As he writes, “Doing needs doctrine and doctrine is for doing.” You’ll never look at a necklace in the same way again.

This is a balanced book, as can be seen in Pastor Martin’s use of both biblical instruction and scientific research, his concern that Christians don’t run from one extreme to the other, and his careful combination of both law and Gospel.

On the latter point, this is a Gospel-centered book. Pastor Martin does not want to promote proud Pharisaical behavior modification, but rather wants to see Gospel-motivated, Spirit-wrought change.

“Your body—whose is it—yours or his?” asks the subtitle. It’s a question that will be burned into your heart and mind when you finish this book, and will influence every decision about how you use your body from now until eternity. I hope and pray that you will be as blessed through Pastor Martin’s written words as I have been by his spoken words.

Glorify God in your Body at Amazon for $8.95 or at Trinity Book Services for $6.95.

Check out

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Four Tips to Encourage Single Christian Women in their Work
“The topic of Christian singleness and vocation, like life’s most pressing and difficult questions, deserves a rich theology. Whether we’re packing lunches or sitting at an office computer, we owe it to ourselves to wrestle with the Lord and dig into scripture to reflect deeply and soundly about our vocations.”

Pastors, Learn From Non-Pastors
“Here are five reasons we must devote some of our best time, energy, and resources to training up and learning from electricians, lawyers, teachers, and bankers.”

Sleep Disorders & the Glory of God
“Whether you battle with sleeplessness or care for someone who does, here are a few thoughts on sleep disorders and the glory of God: ”

Bill Gates reveals the ‘safe’ minimum age for kids to get a smartphone
“The world’s richest man for the fourth year running has said he and wife Melinda banned their three children from owning phones until they were 14.”

How to Harness Sleep to Boost Your Productivity – Michael Hyatt
“The Lancet studied doctors who went without sleep for twenty-four hours. Physicians in that restless state were 20 percent more likely to make mistakes and took 14 percent longer to do routine tasks. The effects of sleeplessness were similar to what you’d see if the doctors had been drunk. What’s true for doctors is true for all highly motivated people, Stevenson said. Folks may think it’s smart to skimp on sleep but “in reality, most of the people who are buying into that are not successful—they’re not even close to successful.” While a few “anomalies” might pull it off, most of eventually “fizzle out.”"

The preacher-listener connection
20 suggestions for a better connection between preacher and listeners.

The Case for Idolatry: Why Christians Can Worship Idols
Very persuasive

Kindle Books

Married for God: Making Your Marriage The Best It Can Be by Christopher Ash $3.99.

The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples by Trevor Joy $2.99.

Gospel-Centered Family by Tim Chester $2.99.

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament by Christian Fox $3.99.

“The Best and Worst Moment in my Life”

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 6:41am

Just over a week ago, Matthew Bryce decided to go surfing off the Scottish coast. Within a few hours the tide and wind had blown him thirteen miles out to sea. He watched the sun set, knowing he would not survive the night.

During the night he saw some distant ships and fishing boats, and tried calling out to them and paddling his board towards them. To no avail.

Sunrise came and he was still alive but the morning turned to afternoon, then evening, and another sunset was looming. This time, he knew for sure it was over. “I was pretty certain I was going to die.”

Then, the sound of a helicopter overhead. He jumped off his board and waved it around to draw attention, but they flew past him. His last hope turned to despair…and then hope again, as the chopper banked and started flying towards him.

“But then they turned round and when I saw them turn it was indescribable,” he said. ”It was a combination of the worst and greatest moment of my life…it was surreal.”

“I can’t describe it at all. These guys were the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I owe them my life.”

Watch the video below or a longer deeply moving interview here to feel the full emotional impact.

But do so while thinking about the parallels between this and your salvation. Ponder where you were drifting towards. Remember your hopelessness and despair. Recall the fear of death. Think about the sound of the Gospel hope and your attempts to get God’s attention. And, Oh, the moment when he turned towards you and came to rescue you. Was that not the most beautiful sight in the world? Kindle gratitude and worship as you re-trace his work of grace in your dying soul.

It was the worst of times. But it became the best of times.

Pages