Head Heart Hand
Christ is the greatest treasure that anyone can find in this world, and all who seek him find him, and all who find him find far more than they ever imagined.
One of the saddest headlines of 2017 was Man hunting treasure found dead in New Mexico. It was made all the sadder by the fact that the dead man was a pastor from Colorado who died in search of hidden treasure worth $2m that had been hidden in the Rocky Mountains by millionaire Forrest Fenn. Fenn hid the chest in 2010 and wrote a poem he claimed led to the treasure. Since then, over 65,000 people have searched the area in New Mexico for the 22lb bronze chest containing gold and jewels with many suffering injury as they traversed the dangerous topography. And still no treasure has been found.
Join me on a treasure hunt that results in life not death, and that will produce true riches for every treasure hunter. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
To help us find this treasure, God has provided a map called the Bible which is:
Accurate: Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, it is 100% accurate both in its Old and New Testament versions.
Accessible: God has made it available in hundreds of different languages.
Varied: Some parts are history, some poetry. Some parts are songs, some laws. Some parts look forward, some parts look backwards. Some parts are close ups, some are birds-eye view. There’s something for everyone here.
If you haven’t found the treasure yet, don’t blame the map.
The Treasure Hunter
So, if the map is so good, why haven’t more people found the treasure? Because the treasure hunters have many problems:
Disabilities: They are spiritually blind, deaf, and lame.
Confused: They don’t really know what they are looking for.
Distracted: They are easily diverted by the cares of this world and other minor matters.
Dying: The treasure hunters are dying but don’t usually appreciate how limited their time is and how urgent the hunt is
As the Colorado pastor found out, treasure hunting comes with many dangers. In this case, the dangers include:
False maps: False religions, false science, false philosophies, false psychologies, and many other falsehoods attack God’s map and substitute their own.
False promises: Many pleasures promise happiness and satisfaction if we dig into them. Gamblers put a big “X marks the spot” over casinos. Other X’s can be found on alcohol, sex, money, popularity, and so on. But all who have tried to dig in these places have only come up with dust no matter how deep they’ve dug.
A prowling lion: The devil goes about as a roaring lion whose full-time job is to divert you or kill you before you find the treasure (1 Pet. 5:8).
Given the dangers, is this treasure hunt worth even trying?
Thankfully, God offers many helps and clues to overcome the dangers, such as:
His promises: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)
His people: Most treasure hunters want the treasure for themselves and don’t want anyone else to find it or get any of it. But Christians who have found the treasure of Christ desperately want to help others find it and enjoy it too. Sharing this treasure actually multiplies it.
His treasure seminars: He offers weekly seminars where expert treasure hunters explain the map and offer direction and guidance to motivate and guide.
There are so many valuable helps that if you haven’t yet found the treasure it’s only because you haven’t really looked for it yet. “Seek and you shall find” (Matt. 7:7).
So, what is the treasure? It is knowledge and wisdom about:
God: Christ is the image of God, so much so that he who has seen Christ has seen God (John 14:9)
Yourself: Christ reveals your sinful heart and your spiritual need.
The Cross: Christ makes sense of the cross and shows how although some call it weakness and foolishness, it is actually the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18)
Life: Christ sets before us a wise life, the best way to live.
The World: Christ gives a new worldview, a new way of looking at the world’s history, people, ways, and purpose.
The Future: Christ gives knowledge of what happens after death and how to prepare for the judgment in such a way that we go to heaven rather than hell.
This and so much more demonstrates why in Christ are hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge. All that is valuable, precious, useful, is found in him. He is an unsearchable, inexhaustible, unfathomable treasure chest.
“Hidden in Christ” does not mean that God wants to make it hard to unearth this golden wisdom. So what does it mean?
You have to dig: You have to go out of your way to seek it and get it. It’s not going to just land on your lap. Faith in Christ is the spade with which we dig and by which we discover more and more spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
You don’t get the wisdom and knowledge without Christ. You don’t get the treasure without the treasure chest.
You will be surprised: There’s so much more in him than we can ever imagine. No matter how long we have been digging, there will be more to discover. Ahead lie years of unpacking and discovering new jewels of knowledge, and gold of grace in unlimited supply.
No one has ever truly hunted for this treasure and failed to find it. And all who have found it have exclaimed: “I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard” ( 1 Kings 10:7).
Finding Our Place: Our Family’s Long Quest for Calling and Home
This is a longer post but contains a testimony to God’s faithfulness that’s well worth reading:
“We’ve been home for almost six years now. We’ve passed out of the honeymoon phase into a state of faithfulness and commitment. One of the side effects of our frequent relocation was that we never stayed in one place long enough to build the kind of relationships necessary for a mature life. We never reached a point in relationships that would test and grow us. We have here, and at times, it’s been excruciating. Someone asked me recently why we stay. Our church is small and, like so many other congregations in rural communities, struggling. The answer is a simple, albeit difficult, one. We stay because there are people here, and we believe we’ve been placed here. We stay because this is our community, this is our home.”
A Simple Plan for Congregational Scripture Memory
Barry York shares a congregational memorization plan that’s impacted many lives. What a difference this would make to the church if implemented widely.
Feeding on Christ The Genesis of Theology
And if you’re about to start reading the Bible from Genesis 1 again “here are a few theological themes that emerge when we meditate on the opening two chapters of the Bible in light of the fullness of biblical revelation.”
How To Be Happy This Year (Hint: It’s Not Complicated)
Lots of excellent counsel in this one:
Even though God allows me to struggle with depression and anxiety, I do believe that God wants me to have happiness in my life (which can be hard). And I think we tend to overcomplicate and over-spiritualize this whole happiness business. It’s relatively straightforward.”
62 Gospel-Centered Books on Marriage, Marriage Counseling, and Pre-Marital Counseling
Yes, you read that right. 62!
“I love her more”
What would you do if the women you hoped to marry revealed she was born without a womb?
“I found myself wrestling with a trade-off that in no way seemed fair to me: would I give up my dream of fathering my own biological children to be with the woman I love with all my heart?”
Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You?
Russell Moore replies: “Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to you? If you are in Christ, you can count on it. The passage doesn’t promise you the kind of future American culture prizes, and maybe even promises a future you would tremble at it if you saw it in a crystal ball. Short-term, you may suffer. But long-term, your future is co-signed with Christ. That’s a future for your welfare, and not for evil; a future of hope, not of despair.”
Three quality books today.
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman $3.99.
The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg D. Gilbert $2.99.
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl $3.99.Video
Christ needed the Holy Spirit at his birth, in his growth, in his ministry, in his suffering, and in his exaltation.
What was the role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s life on earth?
1. The Holy Spirit in Old Testament predictions
There are three ways in which the Old Testament indicated that the Messiah would be filled with the Holy Spirit while on earth:
Old Testament offices: The typical Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king were anointed with oil. This signified their need and God’s supply of the Holy Spirit’s gifting and empowering (Isa. 61:1)
Old Testament vocabulary: The future Savior was called the Messiah, meaning the Anointed One.
Old Testament prophecies: The Old Testament predicted that the Christ would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1).
The Old Testament offices, vocabulary, and prophecies indicate the indispensable necessity of the Holy Spirit in the future Messiah’s person and work.
2. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Birth (Luke 1:35)
The Holy Spirit was involved in Christ’s birth in two ways:
Christ’s Conception: The Holy Spirit framed, formed, and conceived the body of Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary and using part of Mary’s body.
Christ’s Sanctification: Christ’s human nature was sanctified at moment of his conception. His humanity never existed for one second without perfect holiness. As soon as he was human, he was holy.
How much do we trace our physical and spiritual life to the Holy Spirit, the giver of life?
3. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Growth (Luke 2:40)
As Christ grew, he depended on the Holy Spirit in these ways:
His Communications: The divine nature did not communicate directly with his human nature but only via the Holy Spirit.
His Education: The Holy Spirit was responsible for all Christ’s mental development in his human nature (Isa. 50:4-9). This involved not just accumulating facts but an ability to use them.
His Communion: He communed with his Father in his human nature by the Holy Spirit and received the comforts and joy of that communion via the Holy Spirit.
His Graces: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to exercise trust, love, and all other necessary holy affections and graces. His personality was heavy with the fruits of the Spirit.
His Work: Christ needed the Holy Spirit for every act that took place in his life. In his human nature, he was entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
How much do we depend upon the Holy Spirit for our growth in knowledge, communion, grace, and work?
4. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Ministry (Luke 3:22)
If Christ needed the Holy Spirit in his early life, he needed him even more through his three years of ministry.
Equipping: The Holy Spirit was incessantly active in conferring every conceivable gift upon him and in increasing them as needed.
Assuring: The Holy Spirit gave Christ an assuring sense of his Sonship and divine calling to his work (Luke 3:21-22)
Overcoming: The Holy Spirit enabled Christ to overcome temptation (Luke 4:1-13).
Guiding: Christ was led by the Spirit in his daily life and everyday decisions (Luke 4:14-15)
Empowering: It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ worked miracles, raised the dead, healed the sick, and saved the lost (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; Acts 10:38)
Teaching: The Holy Spirit gave Christ what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and who to say it to. Nothing was said or done without Spirit’s prompting (Luke 4:18).
How much do we seek the Spirit in ministry—to equip, assure, overcome, guide, and empower?
5. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Sufferings (Heb. 9:14)
If Christ needed the Holy Spirit for his entire ministry, he needed him most for his work of suffering.
Submission: It was the Holy Spirit that enabled Christ to submit to God’s will, even though it was so painful and hard.
Motivation: The Holy Spirit motivated Christ for his suffering by filling him with love for God and people
Suffering and offering: It was through the Holy Spirit that Christ suffered and offered himself a perfect sacrifice to God (Heb. 9:14)
Preservation: The Holy Spirit preserved Christ’s body in the grave (Acts 2:27).
How much do we ask for the Spirit’s help to submit to our sufferings and motivate us to persevere through them?
6. The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Exaltation
The Holy Spirit’s work in Christ did not end with his perfect offering and his body being perfectly preserved in the tomb.
Resurrection: The Holy Spirit raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11; 1 Tim. 3:16)
Glorification: The Holy Spirit glorified the human nature of Christ and made it ready for eternal residence with God (Acts1:2-3).
Donation: He gives the Spirit to others (John 14:17-18). The Lord Jesus is the cause, source, and pattern of the Spirit’s ministry in the believer (John 16:7).
Question: If Christ needed so much of the Spirit’s presence and work throughout his earthly life, how much more do we?
I’ve been in Florida with my family the last week or so, but as I resume the usual daily blog service, let me take this opportunity to thank you for visiting this blog in the past year and also to wish you all a blessed 2018.Blogs
What Expository Preaching Is Not
Here are fifteen myths about expository preaching that should be exposed to help the preacher rightly understand and faithfully practice expository preaching.
Are You Having Trouble Focusing? These Simple Strategies Will Help
“We’ve surveyed and assessed more than 35,000 leaders from thousands of companies across more than 100 countries, and found that 73% of leaders feel distracted from their current task either “some” or “most” of the time.”
Tips to Mitigate the Effects of Performance and Sleep Decline Associated with Shift Work
This from an ex-SEAl and now MD:
Regardless of what you are hoping 2018 will bring, I promise you that everything that I have learned in my life has led me to this statement: Nothing will improve your 2018 more than making sleep one of your highest priorities. I wish you all the best.
Break the Cycle of Stress and Distraction by Using Your Emotional Intelligence
Stress is toxic for the brain both in short-term cognitive tasks and in its long-term contribution to Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.
What if cancer is a gift? | ERLC
“Four months ago I found a lump in my breast. And the Spirit clearly prompted, “This lump is a gift.”"
6 Tactics Narcissists Will Use To Silence You
“How do you avoid this type of manipulation? For starters, if you feel like someone is treating you badly, pay attention to that feeling, and to the ways someone may be orchestrating your breakdown. That’s easier if you know the tactics that manipulative people use on their friends, family, and colleagues.”
Spurgeon’s 15 Tips for a Deep and Effective Prayer Life
All prayer tips gratefully received.
The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges $3.99.
Wednesdays were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, And God by Michael Kelley $0.99.
Apologetics Study Bible for Students by Sean McDowell $2.99.New Book
Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique by J. P. Moreland and others .Video
Enter 2018 beholding the awesome greatness and awesome gentleness of our God. Then feel the strength and courage returning to your weary and fearful soul.
As we enter 2018, news headlines warn us about North Korean nuclear missiles, terrorists using drones to launch chemical and biological attacks, artificial intelligence taking over the human race, another housing bubble bursting and the stock-market crashing, and on and on it goes. The dangers are great and our defenses are weak.
So let’s turn from media headlines to biblical headlines in order to correct our worldview and enter 2018 in a more peaceful and trusting spirit. The prophet Isaiah knew that tough times lay ahead for God’s people. He spent 39 chapters warning them about it. But, in chapter 40 of his prophecy, he turned from earth to heaven and called God’s people to “Behold your God!” (v. 9). And what a reassuring sight that is.
Behold God’s Hand
How much water can you hold in the hollow of your hand? Turn the tap on and try it. It’s pitifully small isn’t it. What about God’s hand? Isaiah says God can hold all the water in the world in the hollow of his hand (12). That’s 332,519,000 cubic miles of water. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Ruler
What’s the longest measuring tape in your home? Perhaps 100 feet? Maybe 500 feet at the most. It can’t measure very far before running out. But God measures the heavens with only the span of his hand (12). The distance to the nearest star is 4.5 light years. That means that if light were to leave it now, it would take 4.5 years to reach the earth traveling at 186,000 miles per second. That’s a total of 26 trillion miles….and God can measure it easily with only his hand-span. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Cup
Your kitchen cupboard probably has different cups for measuring out ingredients. The biggest might be two or three cups. Again, even if we fill them to the top, they can’t hold very much. Now look at God’s cup; it can hold all the sand in the world. Go around all the beaches of the world, pour them into God’s cup, and there’s still space (12). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Scales
Staying in the kitchen, take out God’s scales and see if you can break them. He puts all the mountains and hills on his scales and they still don’t break (12). The Rockies are there, so are the Alps, the Himalayas, the Pyrenees, the Andes, and many more. Yet God’s scales aren’t even straining. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Teacher
Eh…he doesn’t have one (13-14). So different to the Babylonian gods that God’s people were about to be surrounded by in exile, all of whom needed outside counsel and help to overcome hostile forces. But our God has never learned anything or taken advice from anyone. He’s never sat down and asked someone, “Well, what do you think?” “Can you help me?” How great is our God!
Behold God’s Bucket
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen lots of activity at the United Nations. Lots of self-important people making self-important speeches. Each nation flexing its muscles and puffing out its chest. But God looks down and sees all the nations of the world as a drop in (or from) a bucket, and as dust on the scales (15). It’s as if he’s carrying a bucket when a little drop spills out. Look closely enough and you’ll see 195 nations in that tiny drop. He sees some dust on his scales and blows it off. Oh, there goes Russia, and there goes North Korea, and that speck is the USA floating to the floor. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Sacrifice
In verse sixteen, Isaiah envisages the biggest sacrifice in the world. There’s a pile of wood reaching to the sky. It’s made up of all the beautiful and valuable cedars of Lebanon. On top of this mountain of wood are all the animals of the world. Everyone looking at this altar says, “It’s too much!” But Isaiah looks at it and says, “It’s too little!” Anyone who knows how great God is, knows how insufficient this sacrifice is (16). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Calculator
Nations love to compare their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to show how successful they are. If we were to add up all the GDP’s in the world, most of our calculators would run out of digits. But on God’s calculator it all comes to zero; in fact less than zero. Just emptiness (17). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Mirror
Soon, Isaiah’s compatriots were going to be surrounded by Babylonian gods all claiming superiority to the God of Israel. But God says, “Don’t even try! Don’t even begin to compare other gods with me. These man-made gods don’t belong in the same frame as the God who made man. I am the incomparable God.” How great is our God!
Behold God’s Seat
It’s far grander than the most impressive royal throne. He sits on the entire horizon (22). Go to the shore or to the desert and look as far east as you can, then look as far west as you can. You’ve only seen a small part of God’s seat. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Grasshoppers
The world’s Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, and Dictators look so big and powerful to us. So do the business tycoons and media moguls. But God looks down on them all and says, “Oh, there’s little grasshopper Trump, and there’s little grasshopper Clinton. Over there is grasshopper Kim Jong Il. And was that grasshopper Weinstein that just fell of his perch? Grasshopper Zuckerburg and Gates and my playthings (22-25). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Sky
Isaiah then lifts our eyes from earth to the heavens and says, Behold your God in the planets, stars, and galaxies. He created them all, numbers them all, names them all, and supports them all. And do you know how many of them are there? Latest estimates are that the universe contains 10 trillion galaxies each one containing 100 billion stars. How great is our God!
Do we really have any cause to fear and tremble? Do we lack reasons for peace and trust? Behold the awesome greatness of our God. As Isaiah asks us in his challenging summary: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (28)
Behold God’s Gentleness
But Isaiah also wants us to think of the awesome gentleness of our God. He frames this survey of God’s awesome greatness (12-28) with two bookends of God’s awesome gentleness (10-11, 29-31). Our great God is also our gentle God who feeds his sheep like a shepherd, gathers his lambs into his arms, carries the weak, and gently leads the vulnerable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Enter 2018 beholding the awesome greatness and awesome gentleness of our God. Then feel the strength and courage returning to your weary and fearful soul.
The three books on God that have revived me most through the years have been:
Want to help your kids read the Bible in 2018? In addition to the simple and do-able annual plan outlined in Exploring the Bible, I’m delighted to announce the launch of a weekly video to encourage our kids and to keep them on track. The introduction video is below, and, starting the first week in January, one video will be published at the end of each week on YouTube, my blog, and my Facebook page. Thanks so much to Darryl Bradford, PRTS video producer, for all his help in this project.
Within the next week, I’ll be launching a weekly Exploring the Bible video to encourage kids to read the Bible for themselves. The short weekly video will review the week’s Bible readings and chat about the weekly discussion question. Why not join us by getting the book (RHB) and making 2018 the year you start your kids on the holy habit of daily Bible reading?
“How can I get my kids to read the Bible for themselves?” I’ve been asked that by many frustrated Christian parents. I’ve asked it myself! Yes, we read them the Bible, send them to Sunday school, take them to church, give them a Christian education, and all that. But how do we get them started at personal Bible reading? And how do we keep them going at it? Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience and from talking with many parents and pastors.
Make it a priority
Christian parents must prioritize the Bible above all other subjects. Yes, there are many subjects to teach our children, but teaching them to study the Bible is the most important by far. And communicating that priority to our children is the first and most essential step in that process.
By our own example of personal Bible reading, by reading of the Bible together as a family, and by regular attendance at a Bible-focused church, we are sending a message that will make teaching them to study the Bible for themselves so much easier. If they see that we clearly view the Bible as the greatest book in the world, it’s far more likely that they will want to read it for themselves.
Make it a joy
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the famous London preacher, once advised Sunday school teachers that whatever else they taught their students, they had to communicate joy and excitement in their lessons. He said that the children may not remember all the details of what they taught, but if they consistently conveyed their own delight in and enthusiasm for the Bible, the children would be “infected” by that and pursue Bible study themselves.
As we read the Bible with our kids and encourage them to read it themselves, let’s make sure that whatever else they remember, they remember our joy. Bible reading is not a “should-do” but a “get-to-do.” We get to hear God’s voice speaking into our lives for our good and the good of others.
Make it a habit
During one of my many attempts to establish regular exercise in my daily life, I came across research that said people were far more likely to establish a permanent exercise regime if they did it every day instead of just two or three times a week. The theory was that although doing something more often would seem to be harder than doing something less often, scientists had found that we are far more likely sustain an activity we do every day than one we do a couple of times a week. I tried it with exercising and found it to be true.
Same goes for something like Bible study. Our children are far more likely to acquire the blessed habit of Bible study if we encourage them to do it at the same time every day rather than just a couple of times a week. Little and often is better than much and rarely.
Same goes for daily prayer. When prayer is associated with something else, like daily Bible reading, it too will become a holy habit. Encourage your children to briefly ask for God’s help to understand what they read and to trust and obey it in their daily lives.
Make it do-able
When I was a child I tried many times to start daily Bible reading, but I usually faltered and failed within a week or two. Usually it was because I attempted too much. I tried to read too many verses a day and it just became too big a mountain to climb.
We can help our children here by writing out a reading-plan for them of a few verses every day. Or use the plan in Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids which asks children to read only 3-5 verses a day. That may sound too little, but it’s do-able and kids are far more likely to stick at it. If they do, ultimately they will end up reading far more Bible than if they attempt and fail to read a chapter a day.
Make it accountable.
I could never be sure if my children were actually reading their Bibles. I would ask them “Did you read your Bible today?” and they’d say, “Yes, Dad,” but how could I check that?
That’s when I started asking them a simple question about the passage or to write out one of the verses. Then I could see if they were actually doing it and they couldn’t brush me off so easily. We would then get together every week, usually when we came home after church on a Sunday, and go through what they had written each day the previous week. That would then become the basis for further discussion and I’d try to answer any questions they had.
Again, I tried to make it a fun time rather than an “examination.” This Q&A or interactive formula has been carried into Exploring the Bible and I hope it will form the basis for many family conversations about the Gospel.
Make it Gospel-centered
We want our children to read their Bibles, not as a way of salvation, but as a way of them learning about salvation. Reading the Bible will not save them but discovering Christ and his grace in the Bible will. That’s why we should always be encouraging them to ask two simple questions of every passage: “What does this teach me about God?” and, “What does this teach me about salvation?”
No matter what Bible book they are reading, these are the two questions that will turn a mere routine into a pursuit of God and of eternal life. When we discuss their Bible reading with them, let’s frequently ask them these two great life-or-death questions so that they will start asking these questions themselves.
Above all, let’s pray for our children. If there’s one thing the devil wants to stop, it’s children reading their Bibles. So, let’s pray that 2 Timothy 3:15 will be fulfilled in their lives: “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The First Sunday Without R.C. Sproul
Here’s a deeply moving account of how Burk Parsons pastored St Andrew’s Chapel the first Sunday without R C Sproul.
My 4 Rules For Responding To Nasty Emails
Might save you some grief.
Behind the Happiness of Down Syndrome
“I am certain that more of us could be passionately invested in fighting for the rights and livelihood of people with developmental disabilities.”
Burnout: Not the Purple Heart of Ministry
“Burnout is never caused by a single area of life. Burn out is a function of our total life management. One area of life cannot get out of order without overt choices of neglect being made other areas of life. This means that if we managed the others areas of our life well, it would have contained the area (i.e., work, ministry, parenting, etc…) that was the primary cause of burnout. We must resist the temptation to blame life, or even one area of our life management, for the experience of burnout. Burnout is a result of how we have managed our life as a whole.”
Jerusalem – EPIC Vlog 01
Nicely filmed video of Tim’s recent trip to Jerusalem.
The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller $1.99. This is a little gem that has helped so many people.
Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo $2.99.
The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between by Gregory Koukl $3.99. Highly recommended, especially for mid-late teens.
“It’s going to be a quagmire.” The media use this phrase whenever the American military run into any difficulty or experience any setback. I remember numerous headlines with the word “quagmire” in both Iraq wars and during the initial Afghanistan campaign. They used it because they knew that Americans would immediately remember the Vietnam war and the literal quagmires that so many American units found themselves in during that fateful conflict.
By predicting a “quagmire” in Iraq or Afghanistan, journalists were not saying that the Vietnam experience was going to be duplicated in every respect in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. That would be impossible. They were saying that some of the core elements of the Vietnam war were going to be repeated.
We see the same thing happening with the word “Watergate.” How many times the media have said that the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation are going to produce another Watergate. Again, they don’t mean that every detail of the Nixon scandal is going to be replicated in what they hope is Mueller’s takedown of the Trump administration. No, they are using “Watergate” as a kind of shorthand, a word that every American immediately understands, to predict some similar outcomes for the Trump presidency and his associates.
So, whether it’s “quagmire” or “Watergate,” the media are reaching back into the past to find a narrative that everyone is familiar with in order to paint a similar, though not identical, picture of the future.
That’s what Jeremiah is doing in Jeremiah 31v15: “Thus says the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah is reaching back into the past, to Genesis 35 where Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, to say “Something similar is going to happen again in the future.”
In Genesis 35:16-20, a mother, Rachel, laments the pain of being separated from his child by death. Jeremiah says something very similar is about to happen again.
And sure enough a few years later, the mothers of Judah experienced the pain of death and exile separating them from their children, when Babylon carried them away into captivity using Ramah as a staging post (Jer. 40:1). It’s not an exact replica of what happened with Rachel in Genesis 35, but the mourners are the same (mothers), the places are in the same locale, and the causes of the mourning are the same (death causing painful separation from their children). Based on the continuous tenses of the Hebrew verb, Walter Kaiser argues that Jeremiah was predicting more than one Rachel-like mourning for Israel:
If Jeremiah realized that Rachel wept over her children/nation in the past, and had continued to do so in his day with the unspeakably horrible events of the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem and its Temple, did he not also realize that she would yet have future occasions to weep in the days that lay ahead prior to the eschatological inbreaking of the new David and the restoration of Israel to her land? How many chastisements, when they would appear, and under what circumstances they would come, Jeremiah does not profess to know, much less imagine. But the iterative and durative nature of these days of trouble he does know.
Then fast forward about 600 years and there’s another “fulfillment” of this prophecy. Matthew tells us that Herod ordered the Bethlehem infanticide in order to fulfill “what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:17-18).
Matthew is saying that although Jeremiah’s prediction of a Rachel-like mourning for the mothers of Judah came true, he was also predicting an even greater and more significant mourning many years later. Again, it’s not an exact replica of what happened with Rachel in Genesis 35 or with the mothers of Judah in Jeremiah 31, but we have the same mother-mourners, the places are in the same general locale, and the causes of the mourning are the same (death causing painful separation from their children).
This is not the same kind of exact and precise prediction-fulfillment we find with, say, Micah’s prophecy of Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It’s more along the lines of typological fulfillment, where, although the details differ, the essence of a past story is used to predict a similar story in the future.
Now then, who’s going to preach about infanticide for their Christmas sermon?
God Wants to Shape Your Wants: An Invitation to the Psalms
“God wants our hearts. He will take them as he finds them. And then, with the healing balm of the Psalms, he will shape them. Accept his invitation to come. On the front door, he has promised, Enter here. Find your delight in lingering here in meditation.”
Most Doctors Have Little or No Management Training, and That’s a Problem
You can substitute “pastors” for “doctors.”
What Does the Old Testament Say about the Trinity?
“Here are some traditional proofs (some more compelling than others) for the presence of the Trinity in the Old Testament.”
Waiting Outside an Abortion Clinic Years Ago Was Worth It
“I estimate conservatively that, in a span of ten years, over the course of my weekly shifts, I saw at least 2,500 women go into the clinics (quite possibly twice that). Roughly a couple dozen of them told me upon leaving the clinic that they had decided to keep the baby. Some of them accepted the help I offered while others said they didn’t need it. And how many more changed their minds without ever speaking to me, I will never know on this side of heaven.”
Feeding on Christ: The Pastoral Year in Review
Nick Batzig is one of my favorite writers on the Internet. I love his Christ-centered pastoral writing, especially his unique gift of making profound biblical theology short and simple. Here’s a list of all his articles written in the past year.
8 Marks of True Reformers
Lessons from Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli’s (1584—1531) advice to his contemporaries.
Julius Kim on Teaching for Attention and Retention
Great advice for all teachers.
Church History in Plain Language by Dr. Bruce L. Shelley $3.99.
It’s a day of sore hearts and wet eyes for many of us. “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?” (2 Sam 3:38). Read Justin Taylor’s tribute here.
Watch RC’s face light up as his Highland Hymn is sung. The beautiful words which he composed (see below) were never truer for him than today.
Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes
Lutes will sing
When we see Him face to face
On that day
His face now hidden from our sight
Concealed from ev’ry hidden gaze
In hearts made pure from sinful flight
Is the bliss that will amaze
We know not yet what we will be
In heaven’s final blessed state
But know we now that we shall see
Our Lord at heaven’s gate
The beatific glory view
That now our souls still long to see
Will make us all at once anew
And like Him forever be
These guides have been designed so that men’s groups can go through Reset and women’s groups can go through Refresh. However, the questions have also been composed in such a way that men and women can discuss the books in mixed groups, with only a few questions here and there (marked with an asterisk) that are significantly different.
It also allows a husband and wife to work through Reset and Refresh together using the Study Guides to compare notes and discuss the differences between men and women’s experiences of stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, etc.
As with yesterday’s Study Guide, there is no copyright on these, so print and photocopy at will!
Here’s a message from my colleague, Chris Hanna, Director of Development and Marketing at PRTS.
Dear PRTS Partner,
The end of 2017 is just about here, and it has been a remarkable year. There has been joy and sorrow, but throughout it all the Lord has reigned from on high. He is still sovereign!
I want to take a moment to once again say thank you. Every time you donate to PRTS you are working alongside us to train students from around the world to serve Christ and His church. You are helping to equip them with a biblical, Reformed, and historic faith.
It is people like you that are making a lasting investment in the lives of our students, their families, and those whom they will serve as pastors and educators for decades to come.
I recently spoke with a student who will shortly be returning with his family to Singapore. There he will again serve the church he left to attend PRTS. He is grateful for his theological education and for the tremendous outpouring of love he and his family experienced while studying at the seminary.
Maybe you’ve given to the seminary in the past, or considering a first-time donation, and you’re wondering what donation options are available. You can give a one-time gift or become a monthly partner through the seminary website or by calling the Development Office at 616.432.3407. In fact, a gift given by December 31 will be generously matched by loving partners of PRTS. We are hoping to raise $400,000 by year end so as to have a two-month balance for the opening lean months of 2018. Please remember that no gift is too small. Your $50 donation will become a $100 gift to the seminary.
You can also give a gift of appreciated assets. To start this process, please contact the Barnabas Foundation – a PRTS partner – at 888.448.3040 and ask for Cindi Riemersma. If you’re in Canada, please contact our Canadian Development Coordinator, Corney Les, at 604.795.6938 or email him today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or your spouse is 70 ½ or older, you may consider an IRA Charitable Rollover. As of 2015, the US tax code allows seniors of this age to donate tax-free up to $100,000 in IRA assets. The Charitable IRA Rollover is tax-free and will not be included in your adjusted gross income. Once again, please contact Cindi Riemersma at 888.448.3040 for more information.
By supporting PRTS you will be stewarding your resources in a lasting ministry, a ministry that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to pass on to others (2 Tim. 2:2). Thank you again for prayerfully considering a matching gift to PRTS before December 31.
In the bonds of our Savior,
Director of Development & Marketing
The #MeToo Movement Is Destroying Trust Between Men And Women
I don’t agree with everything in this article, and it shouldn’t be used as a weapon against legitimate complaints. But it shows how the devil can use good movements with worthy aims to ultimately destroy one of the building blocks of civil society.
Like a disease, distrust is infecting our most foundational relationship as a people, the building block of a free, civil society—the relationship between men and women.
How Christianity Gave Rise to Modern Science
“There were a number of ways in which Christianity gave rise to modern science, and the idea that a set of naturalistic assumptions is necessary to do science is just historically false.”
God Has a Heart for the Vulnerable. Do You?
Paul Martin, the father of a special needs child, writes at Tim Challies’ blog:
Disability makes us ask a lot of questions though. Did God make a mistake when He sewed together the little girl with Patau Syndrome? Did He miss a stitch? The short answer is no. God has His own purposes in mind when He created our friends with disabilities. For instance, “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11). These are God’s words to the disabled Moses, the man with some form of speech impediment, but they hold true for us all. God did not make a mistake when He made the disabled. He did not momentarily lose focus or find His power eclipsed by some interfering evil force. At no point does the Bible teach that the disabled lack or lost the image of God.
One Man Faithfully Loving His Wife Through Early Onset Dementia
“Six years ago, a neurologist gave Debbie Echternach, then age 56, a diagnosis no one wants to hear: “Your brain has atrophied. You have early onset dementia.” Since that time, her husband Jay, a good friend and an EPM board member, has written eloquently about their experience. Each time he sends an update about Debbie, I’ve deeply appreciated his heartfelt insights, and faithful love for his precious wife.”
Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media
“If the Apostles walked among us today, they would warn the church of the following spiritual dangers faced posed by social media”
The Work of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Therapist
I came across this article while researching the work of the Holy Spirit in counseling. I’m linking to it to show how, contrary to some caricatures, Christian counselors outside the biblical counseling movement also rely on the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in their practice.
Here’s the RHB catalog for the new year.Kindle Books
All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal $4.99. A book making a lot of waves right now.
Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography by William Zinsser $1.99. Not a Christian book but six eminent biographers pull back the curtain to explain the pleasures and problems of their craft of reconstructing other people’s lives.
I’ve been encouraged to hear of many groups of men, including pastors and their elders, working together through Reset: Living a Grace-paced Life in a Burnout Culture. In response to feedback, I’m pleased to make available a free Study Guide (pdf) to accompany the book.
The Study Guide has been designed to help individual readers apply the book to their own lives and assist the process of moving from theory to practice.
It has also been written to enable couples to work through Reset (for men) and Refresh (for women) in tandem. Tomorrow, I’ll be publishing a separate Study Guide for Refresh that reflects the differences between the male and female experience of stress, anxiety, burnout, depression, etc. However, both the books and the Study Guides have been written to help couples work through them together. The handful of Study guide questions that are slightly different for Reset and Refresh are marked by an asterisk (*).
I hope the timing of the Study Guide, coinciding with the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one, will encourage many to “reset” their lives and make 2018 more grace-paced than race-paced.
There is no copyright on the Study Guide, so print and photocopy as many as you need.
The Biggest Hindrance to a Leader’s Growth
Agreed: “The biggest hindrance to a leader’s development is not intelligence or work ethic. It is a lack of self-awareness.”
How to Read Jonathan Edwards
“The first point to get clear in our minds is not how to read Jonathan Edwards but why. And here is why. He turns our postcard views of Christ and the beauty of authentic Christian living into an experience of the real thing. What we had only smelled we now see. What we heard others call magnificent and considered overstatement we now see as magnificent and recognize as understatement.”
Your 50s Will Probably Be the Most Unhappy Time of Your Life
As a 51-year-old I don’t agree with this. However, as it may reflect the general culture, it’s useful info for preachers.
According a new analysis of life satisfaction from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which encompasses seven massive surveys and 1.3 million randomly sampled people from 51 countries, rock bottom is somewhere around the early 50s for most folks. On the other hand, people report being pretty happy in their early 20s and their 60s once retirement kicks in.
Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves $2.99.
Men of God by various authors $2.99.
My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2017
Collin Hansen with his annual review of the most important stories affecting the Church:
The emphasis of theological debate has shifted again. And it threatens once more to divide churches, families, and even networks and coalitions forged in previous generations. The topics that generate the most controversy now concern public theology—how we apply the Bible to contemporary ethics. How does our faith testify that it is genuine? How does it lead us to regard and love our neighbor? How does it shape our view of systems and patterns of behavior, deeply ingrained and often denied by people in power?
Ten Critical Trends for Churches in 2018
This would be a great conversation starter for pastors, elders, and deacons.
In the waves of these seas of negativity, are mercy drops of hope and possibilities. Look at these ten major trends carefully. See how God would have your church respond.
Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends
A pastor shares his story of how God has blessed seasons of anxiety and depression in his life.
Though I would not wish anxiety or depression on anyone, I am strangely thankful for the unique way that this affliction has led me, time and again, back into the rest of God.
A Master’s Degree in Counseling or Biblical Counseling?
Yes, I agree, lots of Christian women are asking this question and facing this dilemma:
I’ve noticed that female students who are considering a degree in biblical counseling, especially at the graduate level, are facing a dilemma. For some women, a degree in biblical counseling is not necessary for their job, but they want to gain more education for personal reasons or to complement their ministry skills. For most women, however, the prospect of finding a job is an important part of the equation in deciding on a degree.
Keys to a Fruitful—Not Busy—New Year
“As we head into 2018, could it be that doing less is actually doing more? Instead of trying to prove that you are not lazy, abide in the Lord, work from a place of rest and trust. We have nothing to prove, orly a God to serve, who loves us as His children and desires to see us live fruitful not busy lives.”
Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive?
Some myth-busting here. I suspect the same is true of porn stats and “Christians.”
“Although the empirical story of religion and domestic violence looks good for practicing believers, it’s much less rosy for others. My research suggests that the most violent husbands in America are nominal evangelical Protestants who attend church infrequently or not at all.”
I Shall Not Die But Live and Tell
I really enjoyed this moving testimony from Gordon Keddie:
As I thought later on these things, I could not but wonder at the fact that, days before my illness, I had finished a book on the prayers of the Bible, with a meditation on a prayer for every day of the year, and yet could not remember one of them! It was my faithful Savior who chose the Scripture prayer I needed in a moment when my life-time of memory of that very Scripture had apparently vanished from the scene. And this proved that his love never fails, and his promise ever stands, for he who keeps Israel “will neither slumber nor sleep.” When all you who are in Christ are at your most vulnerable, “he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 121:4, 7-8).
Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer?
“Nevertheless, it is bad translation and bad discipleship to deny the meaning of biblical words simply because they don’t line up with human estimations of the way God ought to behave. In this case, it is hermeneutical malpractice to change the translation in an attempt to force God’s revelation onto a procrustean bed.”
Trillia Newbell interviewed me about How to handle depression.Kindle Books
Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp $3.99.
A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble by Paul David Tripp $3.99.
Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson $2.99.
God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray $2.99.New Book
O Death Where is Thy Sting: Collected Sermons of John Murray. Discounted hardback at Westminster Books. My endorsement as follows:
I still remember the first time I heard a recording of a John Murray sermon and its impact upon me. I was a young Christian with a growing sense of God’s call to preach. This sermon was the clincher. Never before had I encountered such a unique combination of careful exegesis, profound theology, fresh insight, clear expression, and spiritual application. It inspired me with a vision of how glorious Reformed, experiential preaching could be. May this beautiful collection of Murray’s sermons touch and motivate a new generation of preachers and revive those who have lost sight of their high calling.Video
One thing that’s always frustrated me about pictorial kids’ books is how awful the illustrations usually are. Christian books for kids are among the most disappointing. Some of them look as if I was the artist; others are just really cheesy cartoons.
Thankfully that’s all about to change with a new series of board books from the Banner of Truth written by Rebecca Vandoodewaard and illustrated by Blair Bailie. The first three are:
Hopefully you can get some idea of the fascinating graphics from these covers. I found myself intrigued by all the different characters and expressions that fill each picture.
So, super artwork, but also fine content. Each book makes one major point in simple language. Not too much text and not too little.
I read them to my four-year-old yesterday and they certainly passed his test. He loved them and gave them the ultimate accolade: “Do it again, Daddy!”
Immutability and Reformed Theology
Kevin DeYoung compares two different approaches to the doctrine of immutability: one from Herman Bavinck and one from John Frame.
“I am working with these two authors because Bavinck (of older theologians) is especially detailed when it comes to immutability, and because Frame (of more recent theologians) is so widely read and respected….While my sympathies lie with Bavinck, I’m going to refrain from arguing one view over another. Instead I hope to fairly represent both theologians, noting where they agree and disagree.”
The Most Important Part of Your Sermon
It’s probably not what you think:
“I had a seminary professor once say, “You have to begin in Nashville before you head to Jerusalem.” His point was that if you do not meet listeners where they are and engage them where they live, you will have a hard time getting them to the truths of the Bible, and more particularly, to the relevance of the cross of Christ for their lives.
The introduction of the message is what helps listeners know where you are going and whether or not they want to go with you. In this regard, the first five minutes of your message may be the most important of all of them. In light of that, I want to give you two areas to focus on as you prepare and deliver your sermons.”
Announcing a New Series of Booklets
Tim Challies has a new series of booklets based upon popular blog series.
How Can We Transform Scotland Once Again? Lessons From 5 Years of 20schemes
Hard-hitting truth from the battlefield.
“I was recently asked to attend a ‘Transforming Scotland’ event in order to present my opinion on the state of Scottish Christianity and what we can do to reverse its current decline. I was asked to speak to a room full of church leaders from my scheme perspective. Here is a summary of what I said.”
The worst gift to give a middle-school student
“This Christmas thousands of middle school students are going to get a gift under their tree or in their stocking, and it is going to wreck their lives. The worst gift you can give your middle-school student is… A smart phone.”
4 Types of People on Your Team (Only One Is Effective)
“There are two essential qualities in all great leaders: Intentionality (knowledge) and intensity (zeal). In your context, you have met these four types of people. And only one of them is really effective.”
What Expository Preaching Is Not
“Here are fifteen myths about expository preaching that should be exposed to help the preacher rightly understand and faithfully practice expository preaching.”
Is There a Place at the Table for Leaders with Mental Illness?
“I think my pastor friend could have sat down with the church leaders and talked about his condition. I challenged him on that point and he said that probably the next church opportunity will never come if people know that he struggles with bipolar illness. I don’t want to agree. There’s room in the church for people with chronic illness. Not only room, but a place at the table.”
Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms by Martyn Lloyd-Jones $3.99.
All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal $4.99.
Ten Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin $2.99.
Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard $1.99.