Proverbs 23

This chapter focuses on gluttony and drunkenness, touching on immoral women, which is an important connection.

Verse 26 - "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways."

The Proverbs are often read as moralistic axioms, detached from Christ or the gospel.  But this verse shows that the goal isn't solely upright behavior, but a heart that pursues the Lord with loyalty.

Response to Supreme Court ruling on marriage

My denomination's statement

John Piper laments.

The Protestant church speaks with one unified voice here.
[Update]: Rob Gagnon, an important scholar on homosexuality and the Bible, demurs.  But of his 5 points of disagreement, I found myself only agreeing with his 3rd one.

Here is my short statement, based on Romans 12:21.
With the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage now out, a ruling probably as significant as Roe v Wade, it is very tempting to be overcome by this evil.  To hate the liberal justices all the more, to curse those who marginalize us.  But this passage tells us to bless those who persecute us.  Not to avenge ourselves, but to make way for God’s judgment.  Our job is to be ready with compassion and truth at all times.  We should not be led by our government to call perversion good – we must resist that, and not submit to such rulings.  But we resist by submitting to God and loving our neighbor, not by taking the law into our own hands, not with bluster or braggadocio.  We resist Roe v Wade with protests and prayers outside abortion clinics, and with rescue clinics of our own.  We will find similar ways to resist this ruling, as we shine the light of the Gospel on a dark world.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 22

Verse 7 - "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."
Those morally opposed to debt love this verse, but it's more an observation than a rule.  It is certainly a caution against going into debt, but the context compares poverty and borrowing.  Is it a sin to be poor?  No, and poverty usually limits your options.

Verse 9 - "Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor."
This verse helps us make sense of Jesus in Matthew 6:22-23: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"  A good eye means being generous and open-handed to the needy.

Verse 10 - "Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease."
Strife usually finds its source in one person, while the rest are just trying to deal with it.  If you find that source and can change their behavior, shut them down, or get them to leave, suddenly peace abounds in the home or church.

17-21 - listen to what I've said!
22-29 - don't rob the poor, be friends with the angry, secure others' debts, change your fathers' boundaries, or be slack in your work.

How is this about Jesus?
He often would conclude with "He who has an ear, let him hear."
As the richest man in the universe, Jesus didn't use it to exploit the poor, but has paid off our most important debts.  He lifts the lowly, but casts down the high and mighty.


Proverbs 21

Verse 17 - "Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
Verse 20 - "Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it."

It is very easy, especially to today, to find things to fritter your money away on, instead of saving for the many more valuable and necessary things needed in life.  Coffee, junk food, and entertainment sap finances away from braces, vehicles, college tuition, retirement, etc.

Deferred gratification is a virtue that comes from Christ.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  First comes pain and denial and sacrifice for others, later comes the reward.


1 Kings 5-7

Solomon makes a treaty with Tyre, and trades wheat and oil for logs and stone to build the temple.  He has an organized labor force.  He builds the temple 480 years after Israel left Egypt.  It takes 7 years and it's beautiful, made of cedar, stone and gold.  The holy of holies is all cedar with the ark and cherubim.

Solomon's own palace and house took longer and was bigger.  He imports a bronze worker from Tyre, who makes:
  • two pillars for the temple, with 400 pomegranates on lattice and lilies around the capitals/tops
  • the water basin for the temple, about 15 feet in diameter, holding 12,000 gallons, resting on 12 bronze oxen.
  • 10 water basins holding 240 gallons each, on wheeled stands
  • other utensils for temple sacrifice and washing work
So much bronze was cast they lost count of the quantity.

Items made of gold: altar, table, lampstands, utensils and door frame sockets.
Gold and silver was put in the treasury in the temple.

How this is about Jesus
He is the greater temple, not made with hands, but restored in 3 days after it (His body) was torn down.  

  • We are the temple of God, being raised now, God's household.  Jesus is the foundation, and we must build in ways that last, using gold, silver, stones, and wood, not hay or straw (1 Corinthians 3:12).
  • The temple was made of costly material, and time and care were put into its beauty.  So also should we in our relationship to God give Him the best of our lives and efforts.


Proverbs 20

Verse 9 - "Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin'?"

The implied answer is, no one!  Sin is a stubborn squatter in our hearts.  We drive it out, but it returns with a vengeance.  When the young man calls Jesus "Good teacher," Jesus points out that only God is good.  Today we have a tendency to look to the good in people and define them by that.  This is not wrong in itself, recognizing the common grace God gives everyone to do kindness and love others.  But we cannot in that recognition reject the truth that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).

Verse 24 - "A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?"

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  We like to think we have deliberate, clear and biblical rationale for everything we do, but we don't.  Since we aren't omniscient, we can't make well-informed decisions about the future.  We trust God and go with what we know to be true.  This verse especially leans us upon the Lord, instead of our own understanding.  This doesn't mean we should intentionally do things out of ignorance, or stay unstudied if we have an opportunity to learn something.  But we can't know it all.

Solomon's Song of All Songs

Chapters 1-3
Her: your love is the best.  Where can I find you?
Him: you are lovely and beautiful, more than all women.
Her: he sustains me with shade and fruit like the best tree in the woods.

Her: he's coming!  And he's calling me away to himself.  He is mine; I am his.
I dreamed I was back in town, and couldn't find him.  When I found him, I clung tightly.

King Solomon arrives in majesty and luxury for his wedding.

Chapters 4-5
He: you are beautiful!  Your eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck and breasts are all lovely.
You have captured my heart.  Come away with me.  My garden girl needs to blossom.
She: come enjoy your garden - me!

She: I had a similar dream.  He was knocking outside but I couldn't answer right away, though I was dripping with desire to answer.  When I did answer, he was gone.  I ran out in the street not decent looking for him, and got a beating for it.

She: his head and hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, body, legs and mouth are strong and lovely.

Chapter 6-8
He: there are lots of women [and Solomon would know], but you are the perfect, lovely one.
Your feet, thighs, navel, belly, breasts, neck, eyes, nose and hair delight and captivate me.
You're like a palm tree with fruit, and I'm climbing and picking.

She: let's go out to the fields - I'll give you my love there.
I almost wish we were siblings, so we could be affectionate in public.
Love is as strong as death, and way stronger than money.

Let's protect those who are sexually inexperienced or weaker (8:8-9).

Hurry to me, so I can hear your voice!

How this is about Jesus????
Jesus compared himself to Solomon in Matthew 12:42.  His desire is that we be with Him where He is (John 17:24).  He is majestic and beautiful (Psalm 45) and makes us glorious for our wedding day with Him (Ephesians 5:27).  It can be frustrating waiting for that time, but wait we must.  Delights and pleasures await us in union with Christ (Psalm 16:11).

Men need to delight in verbally loving their wives, using these verses as a model.
Women need to delight in giving themselves physically to their husbands.
One way sin messes up marriages is by hindering these things.

Singles can cheer on married people in their love, while they wait for their time of love.  It WILL come, either in earthly marriage or in the greater delight at the wedding supper of the Lamb in glory.

"Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away....
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely."
Song 2:13-14

Acts 7

Stephen makes his defense before the Sanhedrin.  He emphasizes that God's work with Israel has never required the land of Israel or the temple.  Also, that Israel didn't understand when God sent a deliverer, whether it was Moses, or Jesus.  The same one they reject becomes the chosen Savior.

In the wilderness, Israel was tempted to worship idols, though they had the tabernacle.  Stephen tells the Sanhedrin that they are doing like their fathers did, rejecting the one God gave them to save them, and turning to idols instead.  In their anger they stone him, Saul of Tarsus assisting.  But Stephen sees Jesus and asks Him to forgive them as he dies.

How this is about Jesus
Stephen's speech hints heavily to Christ without ever mentioning Him.  He is the greater Moses Israel rejects, and the greater temple Israel needs, while they cling to the earthly building.

It is important to know your nation's and your family's spiritual history.  How have your people been prone to disobey God in the past?  Those patterns may be tendencies in your own life.

Conviction of sin brings repentance or anger and rebellion.  If neither happens, conviction of the truth isn't happening in the heart.


Angels and Demons

Part 6 - Angels and Demons

We turn now from the doctrine of God the Creator, to His creation.
Before coming to humanity, we look at intelligent but not human creatures, angels and demons.

Angels are mentioned over 200 times in Scripture, but their creation and nature are never directly discussed.  There are many different species or names for the class of "Angel:" Cherubim, Seraphim, sons of God, watchers, principalities, living creatures, angel.  Gabriel and Michael are named.  There are lots of them.  That's about all we know about who they are.

What do they do?
We find them guarding Eden first (Genesis 3:24), and the temple later, in symbolic picture.
They are messengers bringing us God's Word, often.
They also protect us.  Elisha in 2 Kings 6:15ff, Daniel 10:13-14, Matt 18:10.
They learn from the grace the church receives and lives (Ephesians 3:10).
They will have a role at the consummation.

Men are less powerful and thus prone to worship angels, but men are made in God's image unlike angels and we will judge angels in the coming age.  We trade places it seems, men a little lower for now, but exalted above them in Christ (Hebrews 1:14; 2:5-9).  Part of the wonder of God's grace is that He saves weaker humans who rebel, but not mighty angels who rebel.

These are angels who rebelled against God before Adam and Eve did.  Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 describe it.  Jesus calls Satan the "ruler of this world" [though he is now cast out].  He is a liar and slanderer - as God's nature is truth, Satan distorts truth.  He is defeated but still dangerous.

Living with angels
Scripture talks more about angels than natural laws - the universe is personal more than mechanical.
Angels engage in spiritual warfare: don't under- or over-estimate the power of demons.
Angels learn about God's grace and salvation by watching us.

Southern Slavery, Flags and Priorities

Confederate flags are coming down in several states this week.

In the same time, a white supremacist has managed to get over 5000 blacks killed since the Charleston shooting last week, Doug Wilson says.
"Since the shooting in Charleston last week, approximately 15,000 children have lost their lives in this country; legally, according to the nine black-robed Nazgul; safely, at least if you don’t count the baby; but scarcely rarely. Blacks make up about thirteen percent of the general population, and yet are represented in about 35 percent of the abortions. That is disproportionate enough to lean genocidal, and to make it the actual legacy of the very white bones of Margaret Sanger. That means 5,250 of these children, slaughtered legally since last Wednesday, were black. Who speaks for them? I don’t count because I have a picture of Stonewall Jackson in my office."
I disagree with Wilson's larger point, that the confederate flag shouldn't have to come down just because people are offended, though.  He's misreading the moment.  The flag is identified generally with racism, because the Confederacy itself was inherently racist.  This isn't just the abuse of a neutral symbol.  Steven Wedgeworth helps, on this point.
"The Confederacy really was distinguished by its commitment to slavery. The concept of states rights was certainly relevant to the conversation, but this was never merely an abstract interest in anti-federalism but rather a commitment to preserve the right for states to possess slaves."

So when you're wrong about two things as a culture (abortion and celebrating a symbol that's generally considered racist), should we criticize or celebrate when the culture fixes one of those things, thus becoming inconsistent?  I say it's progress, not a reason to lambast.  But like Wilson, I want to demonize abortion, not the Confederate flag.  Are we free to speak in this country, yet, as individuals?  We must protect first amendment rights for those with whom we strongly disagree, like white supremacists.  But let's not fly their flag over capitols and on license plates with government endorsement.

Wilson's piece is a strong pro-life statement, which I applaud.
"if you were going to be conceived as the child of black parents in North America, would you prefer Charleston in 1850 or Chicago in 2015? I know which one involves a certified nurse counting up all your pieces so that they can make sure they throw all of you away."
Yes - great rhetoric and also true.  But I do think he is changing the subject, trying to connect to the Charleston shooting.  Abortion is not today a racially motivated enterprise, as far as I know.  Certainly the mother taking each life is not doing so because it hates that race, whatever ghoulish motivations Planned Parenthood had or has for society.

It's a bad idea for Wilson to try to show the horror of abortion by comparing to and downplaying Southern slavery and racism.  Why not simply point out and connect the atrociousness of both?

But it's the piling on with the demonizers that unsettles Wilson, and I'd agree.  This is hard to communicate effectively without being seen as defending the shooter, honestly, and I'm not sure it's worth Wilson's effort.  But we're becoming a French Revolution mob, sending to the guillotine anything or anyone who goes against What Everybody Knows.  It's a disturbing trend, when biblical truth no longer defines What Everybody Knows.  Just ask the Christian cake bakers these days.

So keep your priorities straight.  Don't demonize someone who loves their Southern heritage and history but repents of the racism, while you diminish the decapitations and destruction going on in your home town this week, under the American flag.
"The kind of Christian leader who gets worked up over a decal on a pick-up truck belonging to the sort of good old boy who spends half of every paycheck at Cabela’s, but who has no visceral reaction whatever to that big Planned Parenthood logo which he drives by every day, where today’s horrors are actually being perpetrated, is not, apart from repentance, going to be part of the reformation we so desperately need."

Time to Separate? / Spiritual check-in / Loving Sinners

What kind of relationship can I have with other Christians who disagree with me?
David Murray has helpful words here.
Sinclair Ferguson, here.
"individuals may deal with the same issue, apply the same principles, yet reach conclusions at different speeds, be convinced by different considerations, and indeed have different reasons for their responses as they seek to interpret God’s providences in the light of His Word. Our ability to perfectly bring Scripture to bear on our own situation is limited. Our ability to bring Scripture to bear on others’ situations is often even more limited. If we lose our grip on that principle, we will find ourselves slowly moving into a very limited and limiting fellowship of God’s people."

Time for a spiritual check-up - these are piercing questions.

A great critique of Matthew Vines' book, "God and the Gay Christian," which attempts to legitimize homosexual behavior in God's eyes:
"Vines is correct in one respect: A great deal of work is needed within the Church to ensure that gay men and women are treated with the love and respect they deserve as children of God.  But given the flaws of Vines's arguments, how can orthodox Christians 'affirm' a union that lacks any biblical or biological validity?"
Dennis DiMauro, in First Things, March 2015, pg. 64


Proverbs 19

This chapter moves from talk of riches to the importance of character.  Verse 1 summarizes:
"Better is the poor who walks in his integrity..."

Wealth is of limited and questionable value (verses 4, 6-7, 14), and wisdom is better.
Men are drawn to wealth, but what they really want is kindness (vs 22).

Acts 6

The first sign of trouble in the fledgling church arises: Greek Christians complain their widows get less than Hebrew Christians in the daily rations being given.  The apostles ask the whole group to appoint seven men to look into this, so they can stay on task.  The seven all have Greek names, showing the group's concern not to discriminate against the Greeks.

It's interesting that priests are mentioned here coming to the faith, as they were dependent on the temple's generosity for their living, much like widows were.  Are they convinced by the effective and pure benevolence program of the church, in contrast with the temple's more corrupt system?

One of the seven, Stephen, does miracles and argues successfully with some Jews.  They falsely accuse him to the Sanhedrin, that he calls for the destruction of the temple and change to Moses' customs.

How this is about Jesus
He did not withhold mercy and provision from Gentiles, even as His earthly ministry before the cross was mainly to Israel.  The benefits of His atonement are not limited to Israel (1 John 2:2).

Stephen's accusers follow Jesus'.  Tell a half lie just believable and inflammatory enough to condemn him.  They did this to Paul later, in Ephesus to start a riot.  He hadn't spoken against goddess Artemis (Acts 19:37), but he did teach the God of Israel was the one true God.

We have the same thing happening today.  Christians are accused of hating gay people, when the truth is that we cannot say their behavior is acceptable to God.  Not the same thing.  Often, the way we are tempted is the same direction as the accusations from the world.  While Christians are called to love and invite all people to accept the truth, we are tempted to disgust and separation from those people (Jonah 3:10-4:4).  The world sees that disgust and accuses us.


Proverbs 18

Verse 17 - "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."

Truth is slippery for our feeble, fallible minds and hearts to grasp.  Many love to "take a stand" for truth, and we should.  Be we have to be careful we aren't simplifying or distorting the facts for the sake of clarity at all costs.  If things aren't clear to you, yet, don't be impatient and violate the truth, just to jam the facts into your pre-conceived ideas.  It's okay to respond to someone in conversation with, "I'm not sure about that.  Good question.  Let me think about that a while and get back to you."

Acts 5

One couple in the early church lies about how much they sell land for, to give to the church.  They fall down dead on the spot.  The church and Jews around are impressed and fear God.  But the temple rulers get jealous of their popularity and arrest them again.  An angel breaks them out, sending them to preach in the temple.  The rulers can't find them in the morning, are obviously out of control, and then arrest them again.

They confront Peter and John: "We told you not to speak in the name of Jesus."  Response: "We cannot obey you."  And they preach the death and resurrection of Jesus again, not leaving out His ascension or sending of the Spirit!  Many in the Sanhedrin want to kill them, but Gamaliel counsels to let them be, expecting the movement to die out after a while.

Wanting to look righteous at church can lead us to do silly or sinful things.
Gospel presentation must always center around the redemptive acts of Jesus for us: Incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost.

Proverbs 17

Verse 9 - "Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends."

When we are offended, we repeat the matter to ourselves, at least.  When this happens, it either leads to bitterness or we decide to forgive them.  When we speak of moving on, or forgetting it, it isn't clear what's going on in our heart, and our actions will reveal it over time.  We either separate from the offender and remain angry inside, or we really do move on and not let the offense come between us.


Acts 4

The priests arrest Peter and John, but not before many believe in Jesus, from the speech in chapter 3.  The next morning they interrogate Peter and John, which gives another example to witness to Christ.  They can't deny the miracle, but oppose the message, and so forbid them to speak of Jesus anymore.  Peter refuses to their face, and. They threaten and let them go.

They go back to the church, and the church prays together, quoting and applying Psalm 2 to their situation: the rulers are opposing Christ, but that won't stop God.  They ask for more boldness, and God answers by shaking the place with the Spirit.  The church continues in generosity together.  Selling land may also mean a shift from looking to promises for land in Israel, to seeing God's people re-constituted with the apostles as her true leaders.

How this is about Jesus
On the surface the main story is the boldness of the apostles, but the real dispute is about Jesus.  The rulers thought Je would go away once they killed Him, and we tend to think the tension between Jesus and earthly rulers has gone away since Jesus ascended, but it has not.

An important principle comes clear from verse 19: earthly rule and authority is fallible and must be opposed when it opposes Christ.  Whether in church, state or home, the Bible abounds with examples of godly resistance or disobedience to wicked authority.  The Hebrew midwives in Egypt, Rahab in Jericho, Abigail with David against Nabal, several Judges, Daniel in Babylon.  We usually limit this civil disobedience to times when the authority that forces us to directly disobey God, requiring us to disobey them, as here in Acts 4.  But Rahab and Abigail are instances that go beyond that, where we are not forced by the ruler and thus required by God to civil disobedience, yet we MAY proactively initiate opposition to them, to avert great harm.

Paul also often prays for boldness, knowing the great opposition to the Gospel in the world.  Are we willing to speak in Christ's name, knowing the ridicule and hostility that will result?


Acts 3

Peter and John go to the temple to pray (not to sacrifice, notice).  A beggar asks them for money, and Peter tells him to stand up and be healed in the name of Jesus.  He is, jumps for joy, goes into the temple with them, makes a stir and a crowd, and Peter seizes the opportunity and speaks.

"We didn't heal this man by our own power, but by the God of Abraham, who sent us Jesus.  You killed Him, but God raised Him again, and we saw Him.  The power of Jesus healed this man.  You can now repent.  Jesus is the prophet God promised through Moses to send.  All the prophets and the promise to Abraham pointed to this Jesus.

How this is about Jesus
The central thrust of Peter's message is to spotlight Jesus, making Him the center of gravity around which the whole Old Testament orbits!

  • How did Peter know to stop and address and declare this man healed?  It isn't said, but the Spirit is at work in a powerful and unique way, here.
  • Stay engaged with people who don't get it, yet.  The apostles were likely tempted to separate from the temple, but Jesus had told them to stay in the city, and be His witnesses in Jerusalem.  We have a strong tendency to separate from those with whom we disagree.  Staying in touch allows the Spirit to work in His way.
  • God's work bring joy and draws a crowd.  Will the church be ready to speak when it gathers?

Proverbs 16

Verses 1, 3 and 9:
"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established."
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

We make lots of plans from day to day, but don't stop often enough to include God in them.  We fly off on our own steam and willpower, and forget to say, "If the Lord wills" (James 4:15).  God's purpose will be established, not yours, so focus on that, even as you plan the rest of today, and tomorrow.  This proverb (and Matthew 6:34) do not forbid planning, but we must hold such plans loosely and seek first God's kingdom.

Verses 21, 23-24:
"The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."

So these verses equate discernment and judiciousness with sweet speech that persuades.  This can be hard to distinguish from manipulative speech, and the only real difference might be the intent.  If you are good with words, do you use them and move others to pursue your own agenda, or trying to guide someone else to godliness?


The Compassion of Christ

Part IV - Christology
Chapter 25 - Thomas Goodwin on Christ's Beautiful Heart

Goodwin (1600-1680) was in the thick of things historically.  Taught at Cambridge until Archbishop Laud drove the Puritans out.  He later was president of Magdalen College, working with John Owen.  He resisted King Charles II's persecutions.

He taught that Christ is more compassionate for us now that He is exalted to heaven, not less pitying of us.  We might think He forgets us or is beyond us, since His ascension (the Problem of Christ's Compassion), but this only deepens His affection in our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:14-15).

His promises to us show His heart for us.  He loved His own to the end (John 13:1), said He was going to prepare a place and bring us to Him (John 14), sent the Spirit to comfort us with His words (John 15-16), and showed how He would be praying to God for us in glory (John 17).  He gives us peace after His resurrection, restores Peter, calls us His brothers (John 20:17).  He sends the Spirit, and all His works are because Jesus loves us.

The Proof of Christ's Compassion
The Father charged Jesus to do all He has done for us (Hebrews 4:14-15; John 6:37-40).
His own divinity shows His love is freely given us, not just forced by the Father (Matthew 11:28-29).
The Spirit Incarnated the Son and equipped Him for His ministry of mercy to us (Luke 4:18).

This compassion for us moves us to put away sin, to walk in His light moment by moment, and to wait with bated breath to see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)!

Tools by which We Learn

Last chapter of Part 5: Doctrine of the Knowledge of God
Chapter 32 - Resources for Knowing

This chapter "amplifies the previous chapter's description of the existential perspective" (748).

Knowing God is a personal enterprise, not merely academic or propositional.  Of course, propositional knowledge of God is needed to know Him personally, but we shouldn't do theology in the clinical abstract.

Our knowledge of God is of the heart, so is related to our character, not gained by intellect or feeling alone but by a combination of:

You could describe this as the ability to think, but we can reason wrongly.  Reason is conformity to truth in Scripture, and to the laws of logic which Scripture assumes.  Reason is not a separate criteria to which Scripture must conform, nor is it the primary faculty by which all others below are judged.

Sense and experience
This involves perceiving something outside of the self and knowing about it by sense (or some similar perception?).  But to perceive in this way involves making judgments about what you see, feel, etc.  Reason is required to make sense of what we sense.  Experience is required to reason about... something.  There is physical sensation, and then there is a perception about it.  This is how we have a real connection with apostolic truth: the apostles experienced Jesus (1 John 1:1), and we read the Bible.

Like intellect, it must be consecrated to God, can serve Him or be used to sin against Him.  Conversion doesn't make you more or less emotional.  Feelings can lead to worse decisions or better ones.  They are part of cognitive rest - either a satisfaction with the status quo that affirms our thoughts, decisions or past behavior, or the restlessness of a convicting conscience or responsibility unfulfilled.  A proper emotional response to the truth is important, to rejoice in good and hate what is evil, as Scripture requires.  We can cultivate godly emotions (existential perspective) by thinking (normative perspective) and acting (situational perspective) rightly.

Although used only negatively in the King James Version, imagination is actually an aspect of thinking, perceiving and feeling truth, by considering "things that are not" (760).  Conservative theologians pride themselves on not saying anything new.  But since it takes imagination to apply to truth to our lives and to new situations and generations, imagination is essential to theology.

Interrelated with knowledge, we can't make one primary over the other absolutely.  We know by doing and we do by knowing.  We decide to pay attention to certain experiences and not others.  People respond to a jailbreak in different ways, depending on their loyalties.  The will is probably closest tied to the emotional, affective side of us, for what we will to do is what we most want to do (HT: Jonathan Edwards).

Habits of thought, know-how, wisdom in facing temptation are all critical.  It is hard to break bad habits and start new ones, but to grow we must be able to do so.

When you don't know HOW you know something, but you're convinced, we call it intuition.  This gets at the mystery of knowledge.  Why is logic compelling?  How do we justify any claim, ultimately?  How do we know when we are at cognitive rest regarding anything?  Intuition.

Self-Pity / Fathering Made Simple / Exciting Church Services

Self-pity.  What it is.  What it does.  A penetrating diagnosis that can straighten you out.

What dads should do for their children.  Happy Father's Day!

Church services shouldn't be boring.  But in what way should they be exciting?  Bob Kauflin explains.

Should We Baptize Foster Children?

The state can’t raise kids, and they know it.  So they hire foster parents to help them.

What should foster parents do about their children at church?  Can they evangelize and disciple and baptize them and give them communion?

I write with little direct experience in the foster care system of the state.  Some of my assumptions may be off.  The key one is this: a foster parent is more limited by the state in what they can do with children, before they legally adopt the child.  The specifics may even vary from state to state, so this gets complicated.

I also write in response to a proposal that foster parents go ahead and baptize foster children, and give them communion weekly, before they have opportunity to legally adopt those children.  That will shape where I take this.

Finally, I write with admiration for foster parents, and the high and difficult calling they embrace, though I may have some hard words for them to hear.

We can and should evangelize and raise foster kids in the Lord Jesus, treating them as one of our own as far as discipling and teaching them God’s ways.  But we cannot see ourselves as saving kids from the state, when we enter the state’s foster system.  We may be a sanctifying presence for good in that system, and bring some to Christ who were in spiritually damaging situations.  But we cannot alter the off-base principle (that the state has a legitimate and primary role in raising abandoned children) by participating in that same system in a certain way.  This takes on an unnecessarily adversarial posture toward the state, which is also seeking the child’s best interest as an advocate, even if their view of their jurisdiction is too broad and unbiblical.

If we don’t want to grant the state more authority than it has, should we even enter the foster system, which assumes that authority exists?  I would argue we may, but our goal should be the reclamation of kids for Christ, not the transformation of the system or its principles.

The argument is made that we should go ahead and baptize foster kids, because we’re getting to the point where the state may take our own kids away, too.  This argument is invalid.  In foster care there is an explicit agreement that the child is ultimately under the care of the state, and the parents are agents.  The burden of proof is vastly higher for the state to take your own children away.  There is no agreement between the state and family to raise your own children in a certain way.  The unwritten rules that could get your kids taken away are far fewer than the rules foster parents need to abide by.  The comparison doesn’t hold.  To go ahead with baptism of foster children, because all children are in an unstable situation given the tyrannical state, is to vastly exaggerate the current situation with the state for Christian homes.  I say this fully aware of the abuses of Child Protective Services against good parents, over the years.

Baptizing foster children in temporary custody may enter the realm of being a rash vow.  If there is a real chance the state may remove our foster care without our permission (when the parents re-enter the picture, e.g.), it is rash to promise to raise the child long-term in the faith.  This differs from just not knowing the future generally.  You are in a knowingly unstable situation.  Often the foster parent needs objective counsel to realize how unstable it is.  Getting attached to the child and zealous to reclaim him from the state or for Christ in covenant families, foster parents may have more experience with the system, but be least objective of anyone about the situation.  They need friends and pastors outside the family to remind them of the instability when they get attached.

A foster child is not under your legal care in a stable enough situation to warrant baptism.  In baptism you promise to raise the child in the faith.  How can you do that if you aren’t sure of their situation 12 months from now?  It is similar to a grandparent taking temporary custody of a child in an unstable home.  Your home may be much more stable, but the child’s situation is not.  Foster parents intent to salvage children can come with too high a view of themselves, thus assuming the situation is stable once they are involved.  No.  Just because you want the state to butt out, doesn't mean the child will be much comforted and stabilized by your word, against their wreck of a family and the state.  Once the situation settles out and we see who the long-term guardian will be, then they can decide things like baptism.  Temporary matters of receiving the Lord’s Supper, though acutely painful in our circles that practice weekly communion with children, do not warrant the immediate baptism and communing of foster children.

Foster children are not in the position of widows and orphans partaking of the Old Testament feasts.  Their covenant status from their original home should be the default setting and not changed.  Foster children have no right to the feasts of God’s people if they do not believe or if they come from an unbelieving household.  Temporary oversight by a believing foster family is not sufficient warrant to bring them to the table, applying the “one rule” of Exodus 12.  That rule referred to ethnicity, not to varying degrees of arrangements of custody.

The church has struggled with this situation historically.  Christian orphanages may have baptized abandoned babies in the past or present, but parents acting as agents of the state providing temporary care ought not.  I would even advocate against Christian orphanages baptizing its children, though, until the child is placed in a godly home.  This is the role of legal parents, not surrogate parents, and the difference is important.  To an older child, a foster parent saying he is “really” your parent, just like our other children, is an obvious fiction, until legal adoption takes place.  It’s okay and right to try to give your foster child the sense of belonging in your family, but that comes fully with adoption.  Just as the state has a legitimate role to register marriages, so it does to recognize adoptions.

Charles Hodge summarized the Presbyterian Church Assembly’s view of orphanage baptisms in 1863.  After affirming the usual pattern of baptizing them if their parents (were they alive or present) were believers, he adds: “Let those children only be baptized, in every case, who are so committed to the mission, or other Christian tuition, as to secure effectually their entire religious education."  This shows the principle.  A child of believing parents can be baptized.  But if they aren’t believers, don’t baptize them, even if they are in an orphanage’s or foster parent’s temporary custody.  When a child is in any unstable situation where they have a temporary guardian (orphanage or foster parent), we should wait to baptize them until their own commitment, or a more stable family situation, make a Christian upbringing expected.

To go ahead with baptism and communion for foster children would be a pointed lack of submission to the state, rejecting the authority they have and that we accept by signing up for foster care.  It is NOT like the early Christians who searched the city gate for infants still alive who had been abandoned.  It is more like entering the temple of Apollo to foster abandoned children left there, signing an agreement to raise a child a certain way, and then going home and ignoring some parts of that agreement.  This is not submission to authority.  Two wrongs (the state’s over-reach, then our rejection of following the foster system while entering it) do not make a right.

Qualifications to only baptize foster children under certain conditions go a long way to alleviating my concerns above.  The long term situation is for them to be with you.  Parental rights with the birth family are terminated by the state.  The state says it’s fine to baptize them.

But before the termination of parental rights, the state really tells foster parents to act as if the child is their own, not to solemnize covenantal unions to that effect.  (The state can hardly be expected to understand the meaning of baptism.)

And why not then just wait until the adoption goes through?  It makes that adoption much more meaningful.  It recognizes the legitimate voice of the state to say, “This child who was not born in your house is yours.”  We cannot at the same time enjoy the benefits of receiving children (and funds) through the state’s system, while we also decry that system’s very existence and jurisdiction.  Our nation must be re-discipled for Christ before that system will change, and we can’t force it through small acts such as this.

If baptismal vows or confessions need to be adjusted to accommodate foster children, it should give us pause.  Are we getting out of sync with the historic church?  Are we trying to alleviate an immediate and acute point of tension more than we are following biblical principle and historic practice?

Though it is a moral and not a more ritual concern, we make the same argument to young people regarding sex before marriage.  Why wait? they ask, since we intend to marry very soon, anyway?  Why should we wait for foster children to enjoy the benefits of covenant with Christ?  Because it is God’s design in Scripture (Exodus 12; 1 Corinthians 7:14).  It makes the covenant bond all the more meaningful once the official ceremony of adoption is complete.
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13).

We ought not jump the gun and baptize children not yet adopted, out of an understandable but exaggerated hostility to the over-reaching state.  We ought not enter into vows we have some reasonable doubt whether we can keep.

Infant Baptism

You and Your HouseholdYou and Your Household by Gregg Strawbridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a short 30 pages, Strawbridge covers most points of this hot debate.

The issue is whether to baptize the children of new converts to Christ. Appealing to the baptism of the converts is off topic. The Old Testament treated children as included in the covenant of God with His people, given the sign of it, circumcision. Is there a reason to change this? 5 of 9 baptisms mentioned in Acts are household baptisms, and 2 of the other 4 have no household (Paul and the Ethiopian eunuch). The household pattern is strong from Cornelius on, “you and your household” being left out of way too many quotes of the basic salvation verse of Acts 16:31. And these examples do not say that everyone in the house believed (plural), but that the individual believed (jailer, Lydia, etc.), and so the household was baptized. “When the apostles practiced the baptismal mandate, they baptized adults after confession with their households, whenever households were present” (Strawbridge, pg. 15).

One of the strengths of this pamphlet is that it points to the pattern of the whole Bible. Baptism is not new with John the Baptist. Rivers and lavers abound in Genesis, tabernacle, temple, Ezekiel 47 and more. Israel’s Red Sea crossing was a baptism (1 Cor. 10:1). The flood was an anti-baptism (1 Peter 3:21). John’s baptism was not a new individualistic pattern, but a renewal of Israel after exile, at the Jordan river. Jesus is ritually anointed there by Spirit and water as the Christ and priest of Israel. Our baptism is into this Christ.

Circumcision pointed to the work of the Spirit cleansing the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6), in the Old Testament, and baptism points to the same work in the New Testament (Mark 1:8; Acts 2:38). So if you’ve been baptized into Christ, you have been circumcised in heart, and the physical process is unnecessary. Colossians 2:11-12 teaches this, even if the circumcision of Christ mentioned there refers to His death on the cross instead of the Old Testament physical process of circumcision. Both circumcision and baptism are “signs of covenant union” (21).

Excluding believers’ children from the covenant, would have been a big change from the Old Testament practice, and would have been a big dispute in the New Testament, but it isn’t mentioned. Instead, the apostles point to our baptism when Judaizers insist on circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12), assuming the same pattern of applying the covenant sign in the Old Testament (circumcision to Isaac, Genesis 17:10-12), continues in the New Testament (Acts 2:39). Since New Testament believers have the reality that the sign of circumcision pointed to, and Jesus gave us a new covenant sign of baptism in the Great Commission, if you are baptized you don’t need to be circumcised. For the apostles to add, “But don’t baptize your children until they are old enough to understand,” would have been a radical departure from Scripture.

Strawbridge knows the objections as a former Baptist himself, and ably and accurately responds.

"Isn’t the new covenant only for the regenerate?"
Actually many Old Testament texts speak of the future covenant as including our children (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:17, 36; 32:39-40; Ezekiel 37:24-26). The New Testament applies the covenant promises given to Abraham (which included children) to those in Christ (Acts 2:39; 3:25; Romans 4:13-17). Besides this, Scripture teaches New Covenant believers they can fall away from grace (Hebrews 6:1-4; Galatians 5:4) and that the kingdom of God includes unregenerate people until the consummation (Matthew 8:12; 21:43).

"Doesn’t the great commission teach that we are to baptize disciples, people who have come to Christ?"
No. Disciples isn’t the direct object of the verb baptize, the nations are. And “nations include children” (15). The Great Commission is an extension of the covenant promises to Abraham, which included children. This objection simply assumes the answer, begs the question, that disciples can’t be children who don’t understand yet.

"Don’t you get more hypocrisy in the church, if you baptize babies who aren’t committed to Christ yet? Isn’t it safer to wait?"
It is true that not every baptized person is regenerate. Neither is everyone who professes faith in Christ. I might grant that less people leave the faith who profess faith, than those who are baptized before they profess faith. Maybe. But just as baptism doesn’t guarantee salvation or regeneration, neither does profession of faith. And should we decide who to baptize by the lower probability of apostasy, or by the pattern of Scripture? Jesus teaches us directly not to force an exact match of these two sets of people: the regenerate and the church members (Matthew 13:28-30). The “better safe than sorry” philosophy wrongly assumes that an infant baptism is somehow the cause or at least a factor in the feared later apostasy. “No practitioners of baptism… baptize only regenerate people, for not even the Apostles managed to do that (e.g., Simon the Sorcerer, Acts 8)” (Strawbridge, pg. 23). This objection also winds up objecting to the pattern God set in the Old Testament with circumcision. Finally, the way to deal with hypocrisy in the church is through church discipline, not withholding the covenant from children to whom God has given it, to try to be “safer” than God wants us to be.

"Are you saying baptism saves babies?"
Yes and no. Baptism is part of the beginning of the pattern and behavior of new Christians. Entering into the state of marriage involves a ceremony at the beginning. You can live as though married without a ceremony. And you can have a great ceremony but a lousy marriage that falls apart. But the purpose is to live out your baptism faithfully. Just because there isn’t a yes or no straight answer whether baptism saves babies doesn’t mean we shouldn’t baptize babies. Again, do we go by probabilities of what will more likely save someone, or do we go by the pattern of Scripture?

"Baptism can’t be meaningful if it’s done before the recipient is conscious of its reality."
Yes, it can, when we escape the modern trap of individualism. Anyone can recall their own baptism, which they don’t remember, when they witness another baptism in the church. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). We should also remember that most adult converts baptized are spiritual babes in Christ with a less mature and developed understanding of the Christian life. Should we wait to baptize them until they are more mature, yet?

"What if you have a dramatic conversion, but were baptized as a baby? Shouldn’t you be baptized again?"
No. This assumes an experience of repentance and conversion is necessary to be baptized, and it isn’t for the children of believers. That is certainly the pattern in Acts for adult converts, but their children are only addressed in the household baptism examples.

"Baptism should be by immersion, and you can’t immerse a baby."
Actually, baptism doesn’t need to be by immersion. Israel’s at the Red Sea wasn’t (1 Cor. 10:1-2). Strawbridge makes a good but seldom heard point, that the Lord’s Supper is less than a supper, too, but that doesn’t make it less meaningful. We don’t need a lot of bread and a lot of water. Baptism in the Bible is often spoken of as sprinkling or pouring, instead of immersion (Acts 10:45-47; Hebrews 9:10, 13, 19, 21-22; Ezekiel 36:25).

Even with this long treatment, I haven’t covered nearly everything – pick up this helpful booklet today.

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Proverbs 15

Verse 1 - "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

I see this as a father all the time.  Our tendency is to respond in a similar mood to how people around us are acting.  Instead we should work to set a proper tone whatever the mood of those around us.  Don't let disobedient anger drag you into anger that also disobeys.

Verse 13 - "A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed."

Our outlook and emotions vary greatly, and what's inside tends to show on our face and our body language.  More interesting, sorrow is not the result of a crushed spirit, but causes it, if we aren't careful.  "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair" - 2 Corinthians 4:8.  Negative emotions need to be managed, controlled and sanctified to God.  Many of the Psalms show this process.

Verse 28 - "The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things."

Know the power of words.  Use them to help others, not just get what you want.  Verbal restraint is needed, instead of just pouring out words.  This is easy for the introvert, but hard for the talkative.  If you ponder how to answer, it moderates these tendencies - the talkative will talk less and the quiet will speak when they need to.

God's answer to our sin and rebellion was not harsh.  He did not pour out judgment that crushed us.  Instead He gave consequences and promised grace.  Adam and Eve's (and our) sorrow at their sin did not crush them.  God's answer led them to faith, mercy, and eventually a glad heart.

Sunday sports / Blog overload / First Principles

1. Doing sports on Sundays?  Here's another look.
"If you want your children to love Jesus, provide them with an example where love for Christ demands that he must come first, and not be shared with the fleeting pleasures of the world."

2. The original bloggers are quitting.  Hateful feedback, and digital life corroding real life are among the reasons.
“Everything has been reduced to a small square on a phone... Attention spans are now 140 characters long, sometimes as short as a video or a picture that self-destructs in a few seconds.”
"I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again."

3. I've become an avid reader of First Things, a Catholic magazine specializing in culture. It's their 25th anniversary this year. Here is the original editorial 25 years ago by Richard Neuhaus, setting out their key principles.
"At every historical moment, the contemporary is afflicted by the crippling conceit of its utter novelty."

Acts 2

When the feast of Pentecost comes, the disciples are in the temple, as usual (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46).  The Upper Room was home base (Acts 1:13), but you always went to the temple to pray or for feasts (Acts 3:1).
The Spirit comes on all of them (not just the 12 apostles) and they start talking in the native languages of the Jews gathered from those places, amazing them.  To Jews it sounds like gibberish, like they are all drunk (Eli made the same mistake - 1 Samuel 1:14).  Peter as spokesman for the apostles explains that Joel 2 has been fulfilled.  They killed Jesus, as God planned.  God proved Jesus was from Him with many signs, and now He raised Him back to life.  David predicted this, and wasn't talking about Himself, since he is still dead and buried in this city.  We saw Jesus alive again, and ascend to heaven, and now Jesus has poured out the Spirit as you just saw happen.  He is the Lord and the Christ.

Many are convicted, believe and are baptized.  The growing group follow the apostles' teaching, see miracles done by the apostles to prove the God-given-ness of this, give generously for those in need among them, extend hospitality, and go to temple frequently together to worship God.

How this is about Jesus
Just because He is ascend and not visibly with the disciples, doesn't mean He isn't working anymore.  Pentecost is an act of Jesus.  He sent the Spirit (Acts 2:33) to testify about Himself to the nations (verses 22-24, 31-33, 36).


  • There are times of waiting in our lives, like the 10 days from ascension to Pentecost for the disciples.  The best thing for us to do is surround ourselves with God's people in worship and fellowship (Acts 2:1; Luke 24:53).
  • The Spirit doesn't encourage us by showing us miracles or giving us amazing experiences, but by pointing us to Jesus, equipping us to testify to Him, making us seek Him in worship, and be generous and loving with others.


Proverbs 14

Verse 7 - "Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge."

This seems a bit harsh, and there is another time to be salt and light to those who need it.  But there is also a time to seek out more edifying company.  Jesus walks away from Jews disputing with Him several times.

Verse 9 - "Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance."

Many secular people don't understand or ridicule religion, as soothing weak minds.  They convince themselves that guilt isn't real, or can be dealt with by mindtricks, distraction, or action.  But what do we do with our real guilt before a holy God who made us?  The upright know to seek God's atonement and acceptance at the cross of Christ.

Verse 12 - "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."

This verse reminds us we can deceive ourselves.  What we are doing seems right, but it has us headed for hell.  There are big scale examples of this, like the Islamic State beheading Christians, or Caiaphas convincing the Sanhedrin that it's better for one man (Jesus) to die for the nation than for them to lose their place.  But it's the little foxes that ruin the vineyard, often.  Be on the lookout for little things you're doing that seem right, but may be moving you away from the Lord, instead of toward Him.


Proverbs 13

Verse 7 - One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

This is a well established fact.  Living like you're rich makes you poor, and the poor are often tempted to live like they're rich out of envy or selfishness.  Living like you're poor makes you rich, and the rich often get that way by living on a tight budget.

There is also a spiritual parallel, which Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).  The Pharisees thought they could see, so their blindness remained (also see Revelation 3:17).  The beggars came to Jesus knowing their poverty, and they became rich.

Verse 10 - By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Strife seldom comes from honest disagreement.  It comes from self-seeking, and fighting for what you want (James 4:1-2).

Also notice, taking advice is always the opposite of quarreling.  If you remain in a posture of seeking and receiving wisdom from anyone who may have it, you will usually avoid an argument.

Finally, insolence is the opposite of wisdom; it is foolishness.  It often masquerades as indignation at the folly of others, but foolishness by its nature doesn't recognize its own folly.  It is wise in its own eyes (Proverbs 3:7; Romans 12:16).

Acts 1

I started telling you about Jesus in my last book (Luke), up to when He ascended to heaven.  Before that He showed Himself to the disciples several times over 40 days, proving His resurrection was real.  His disciples were interested in knowing if He would restore the kingship to Himself and the Kingdom to Israel from Rome, but His promise was power with the Spirit's coming to witness to Himself from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.  Then He ascended into the clouds, and to heaven.

The disciples went back to Jerusalem and waited, like He said.  They replaced Judas Iscariot with Matthias, recounting Judas' gruesome death.  There were about 120 in the group at this point.

How this is about Jesus
He equips His witnesses.
The foundational 12 apostolic witnesses to Him are renamed and established.

Our focus shouldn't be on geopolitical movements or predictions, but on our witness to Jesus.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" - Acts 1:8


John 21

Back in Galilee, Peter leads the disciples fishing.  They catch nothing but Jesus appears on shore, tells them to try the other side of the boat, and there are so many they can't get them all in the boat.  John tells Peter in their struggle that it must be Jesus. Peter leaves the fish and dives for shore to Him.   He has fire, fish and bread already and the number of fish the disciples bring is related to "all the nations."

Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, as Peter denied knowing Him three times.  He predicts Peter's crucifixion, Peter wonders about John, Jesus tells him to stick to his own story, and people misinterpret what He said about John.

Jesus makes evangelism possible, and He commands us to go fish.
We need Him to restore us to Himself, and He knows our future story, too.

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" - John 20:31. 

John 20

When the women go to anoint Jesus' body right after the Sabbath, they are shocked to find it gone.  They go tell the disciples that the Jews or Romans (or grave robbers?) took His body.  Peter and John run to investigate and find the linen cloth still there and the head piece folded neatly.  It can't be robbers.  John is convinced He's alive, but Peter isn't sure, and they go home.  Mary stays and sees angels over the bier in the same position as the ark.  They ask why she is weeping, and Jesus appears.   She still doesn't recognize Him until He says her name.

That night He appears to the disciples and gives them a (fore?)taste of the Spirit.  Thomas wasn't there and won't believe it until he sees it for himself.  Jesus gives him what he asks but blesses those who follow who don't make his demand.

Jesus really was alive and out of the tomb after His crucifixion and burial.
We are slow to believe good things God does for us, because He likes to go beyond the usual way of doing things.
We must not insist on first hand experience to believe the apostles' witness.

Proverbs 12

24 Verse 24: "The hand of the diligent will rule,
    while the slothful will be put to forced labor."

The righteous and hard working can govern themselves, but the wicked need to be put to work. 

Verse 25: "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
    but a good word makes him glad."

Words can encourage and inspire us out of fear and depression. 

Proverbs 11

Verse 24 - "there is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty."

Generosity brings more wealth, not less.
Jesus gives at the cross and receives more honor than before (Philippians 2:9-10).
Frugality taken too far is not right.

Verse 23 - "the desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath."

What do we look ahead to the future for?  The good pursue holiness while the bad wait for the other shoe to drop.
Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).


John 19 - Jesus' death - clearing up contradictions

Pilate flogs Jesus, hoping this will satisfy the Jewish leaders, but they turn up the pressure in two ways.  First they point out that Jesus called Himself the Son of God, a title reserved for the Roman Emperor.  Second, they accuse Pilate of being against Caesar if he releases Jesus.  It was Friday at the 6th hour that Pilate condemned Jesus.  He is crucified near the city with a sign in 3 languages that He is the King of the Jews.

Soldiers gamble for His clothes, according to prophecy (Psalm 22:18).
Jesus tells John to care for Mary, giving the disciples primacy over His biological family.
They way the soldiers confirm His death also fulfills Passover and prophecy (Exodus 12:46; Zechariah 12:10).
Joseph and Nicodemus, two men of means and prominence, hastily anoint and bury Jesus before the Sabbath begins.

A supposed contradiction
Mark 15:25 says Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour, but John says in 19:14 that it was the 6th hour when Pilate condemned Him.  What gives?

The usual answer is that John was counting by Roman time, starting at midnight, making the 6th hour 6 a.m., while Mark is counting by Jewish custom, starting at sunrise, making the 3rd hour 9 a.m.  This has some credence, when we see in John 20:19 that John counts the evening of a day our way as part of the same day, instead of the Jewish way as the beginning of the next day.

Another possibility is that they are using the same calendar, but an "hour" referred to a watch, a span of time.  The 3rd hour was 3 hours after sunrise, but covers the time until noon.  They didn't refer to hour four and a half, only 3rd or 6th, depending if it was closer to mid-morning or to noon.  Since John says it's about the 6th hour, it could easily have been 10:30 or 11 a.m., and Mark was also right to say it was the 3rd hour.  This isn't as satisfactory as the first option, but it's legit.  Our modern need for precision is our problem, not the text's.


Wisdom on Homosexuality

Does the Christian church accept and welcome gays, or hate them?
This question requires a key distinction clarified well here.

Why the big push for same-sex marriage?
David Murray says it's about "silencing gay consciences," a la Romans 1:18.

North, Or Be Eaten!

North! or Be Eaten (The Wingfeather Saga, #2)North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 2 of Peterson's trilogy on the Igiby children.

In part 1 Peterson tries too hard to be off the wall and fantastical. It got in the way of the story often. That continues somewhat in part two, introducing new characters and creatures at break-neck pace, for instance. But it isn't as bad, and the plot gets way more compelling. I'm glad I stuck with it.

There are several biblical echoes in the plot and character development: death and resurrection, Messiah figures, exile, restoring kingdoms, etc.

Recurring themes: dealing with frustration with siblings, protecting those you love, courage in hard times, consequences for past failings, extending forgiveness and kindness.

The Podo character is magnetic.


You can find some of Peterson's music on Youtube for free...

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1 Kings 3-4; Proverbs 10

Solomon marries an Egyptian princess.  He loves God, but is sacrificing at high places, since no temple is built yet.
God appears to him and tells him to ask for anything he wants.  He asks for wisdom to rule well, using language recalling Adam's rule (3:9; Genesis 3:22).  God is pleased and gives it, and riches and honor, too.  This is shown in the story of the two roommate prostitutes who each argue the living child is theirs and the dead child is the other's.  Solomon threatens death for the living child, to draw out the mercenary spirit in one of them.

Solomon's administration is laid out.  His 12 officials don't seem to fall along strictly tribal lines, and his prime minister is unnamed (4:19b)!
His dominion is from the Euphrates to Egypt; his budget is huge; Israel has peace and prosperity.
Solomon was a philosopher, singer, botanist, biologist - everything Adam was supposed to be (except sinless).

Proverbs 10
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out - 9.
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses - vs 12.
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding - vs 23.

How this is about Jesus
3 - He also shows wisdom in dealing with hard cases
4 - His kingdom is from sea to sea.  He is what Adam was supposed to be, and more.

Our desire should be to serve others well.  THis was at the heart of Solomon's request.
The goal of government should be to let each one sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree (4:25).

Prove It!

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 31 - Justifying Claims to Knowledge

Knowledge is a belief that conforms to fact, based on good reasons.  Though the certainty of good reasons has eroded recently, it still stands, "anchored in divine revelation" (732).  The point of Scripture is to provide us with reasons to believe God and His Son Jesus.

We justify our beliefs by appealing to standards (normative point of triangle), facts (situational point), or persuasion (existential point).  This is similar to rationalism, empiricism and subjectivism.  But anchored in Christian revelation these converge instead of contradict each other.

Normative justification of belief
We appeal to laws of logic, but for the Christian our ultimate appeal is to Scripture.  We also justify this bias using Scripture itself, for "it would be contradictory to try to justify an ultimate by appealing to something supposedly higher" (734).  If this is circular, everyone has this problem, since those who appeal to other ultimate standards like reason need to justify reason by reason itself.

For an argument to justify belief, it must be valid, sound and persuasive.
Valid means laws of logic aren't broken (normative perspective).
Sound means the premises are true (situational perspective).
Persuasive means people will consent to the conclusion (subjective perspective).
Notice, we can't isolate one perspective from others.  To talk about a belief being justified by standards of human thought (normative), at some point we bring in facts and persuasion, the other perspectives, too.  Especially when we get stuck at contradictory assumptions, we don't just keep appealing to the standard (something I've seen too many brash Van Til apologists try), but broaden the argument to include evidences and appeal to the Gospel generally.

Situational justification of belief
If our belief accords with the facts, it is true.  These are evidences.  Such facts are not independent of God, rather He controls them.  So we shouldn't claim a neutral position as we list evidences, but have to assume the truth of Scripture during an appeal to such facts.  That said, it is legitimate and needed to use them.

Existential justification of belief
Are we persuaded that our belief is true?  All knowledge has this subjective side, since there is always a knower.  Persuasion brings cognitive rest, a satisfaction knowing the argument and facts are sound and true.  The Holy Spirit does this within us, especially when He regenerates us and we accept the Gospel as true.  Also in our maturity - we often prove what is true as the Spirit helps us live holy lives (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:8-10; Philippians 1:9-10).  Many times theological disputes go awry partly because of spiritual immaturity.  This work of the Spirit is not a new revelation, but confirms revelation already given.  We learn to see the truth of the Word as applied to us, instead of rationalizing sin away or distorting facts for our own interests.  This maturity has a social aspect.  As the Church we are growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:13-16).  This is neither "groupthink" nor independent thought, but thinking and working together as a team, suffering and rejoicing together.


1 Kings 1-2

David is an old king.  His son Adonijah tries to take the throne.  (David never restrained him as he should have.)  Nathan arranges to rouse David to make clear to the kingdom that Solomon is the next king, while Adonijah feasts with his conspirators.  They all scatter, and Adonijah pleads for his life at the altar before the ark.  Solomon grants it.

David charges Solomon to walk in God's ways.  He tells him of unfinished justice he couldn't bring.  David dies - he was king for 40 years.

Adonijah asks (through Bathsheba) for the woman who attended David.  He is still manipulating to get the throne.  Solomon sees through it and executes him.  He exiles the priest who supported Adonijah, and kills Joab at the altar.  He confines Shimei (the guy who cursed David as he fled Absalom) to Jerusalem, and kills him when he violates it.

How this is about Jesus
His throne is established at the plan of His Father, and by His triumph over self-seeking rivals and subjects.

There are times to not show mercy, in order to rule your heart or house or a kingdom well.
Being soft on sin in your heart will trip you up in other parts of your life.
Being soft on the wicked is a cruelty to the rest of the family, or the nation.
It often takes a new generation, or a big change in circumstance, to move from tolerating sin as a group (family or nation or congregation) to eradicating it.

John 18

After praying, probably near or in the temple, they leave the city, cross the Kidron valley, returning to Olive Mountain and an olive grove (and press?) named Gethsemane where they often go.  Judas knows the place and leads temple guards there to arrest Him.  Jesus' words show His power to resist arrest.  See 2 Kings 1:9-16 for a similar event.  Jesus does this to protect and free the disciples.  Peter starts to fight, but Jesus stops him.

He is arrested and taken to Caiaphas.  Peter and John follow a ways away.  John knows the courtyard servants and can get in - he gets Peter in, too, but Peter denies knowing Jesus to the girl keeping the door.

When they question Jesus, He asks why they do it, revealing their sinful motives.  They resort to violence and appeal to rank.

Peter denies Jesus twice more and then a rooster crows.

The Sanhedrin take Him to Pilate for the death sentence, which they aren't allowed to give.  They have a hard time convincing him Jesus is worthy of death.  Jesus says He is a king, but not of an earthly kingdom that will fight him.  All truth leads to Him, but Pilate's cynicism and despair keeps the truth far from him.

He declares Jesus innocent, and offers to release Him or Barabbas, an assassin or terrorist.  They ask for Barabbas!  They would rather have to deal with a zealot who fights them as much as Rome, than have to deal with Jesus.

Jesus shows that He has power to stop His arrest, but then lets them.  In the same way, He has power to end any of our difficulties immediately, but there is a greater purpose for them.  Even in the midst of such difficulties, He is truly protecting us.

There are moments we like Peter will be "cool-shamed:" offered a spot with the cool and with-it people in exchange for denying we follow Jesus or holding to the truth.  "You're not one of those weirdos who believes x, are you?"  What will you say?

What are you using right now as an excuse to not deal with Jesus' demands on your life?  What other good cause is occupying your time and energy so much that it replaces your loyalty to Jesus?  For many Jews, it was Barabbas' pursuit of political liberty from oppressors.

Proverbs 5-9

The forbidden woman looks smooth and sweet, but she leads to bitterness and death.
Don't take that way.
Be satisfied and enraptured (intoxicated, actually!) with your own wife.

Being in debt is an urgent and desperate situation.  Get out and run away from it like a gazelle from a predator.
Look to the ant for how to be diligent in your work.
God hates deception, pride, violence and discord.
Your parents' way will protect you from getting burned and disgraced by immoral women.

My wisdom will protect you.  I've seen young men taken in by the sensual temptation women can offer.  It destroys them like animals to the slaughter.  Many victims fall to them.

Wisdom calls out for the simple to learn.
Wisdom is straight, valuable, hates evil, leads kings, and brings wealth, righteousness, and justice.
I, wisdom, was with Yahweh at the beginning.  When He made the earth He used Me.
If you find and follow Me, wisdom, you avoid injury, but will be blessed with life and God's favor.

Wisdom sets a rich feast and invites you to dine.  But it's hard to give fools wisdom.
Folly is calling out for guests in her house, too.  But it's the house of death and hell.

How this is about Jesus
5 - He urges the adulteress to sin no more, and everyone to looking to lust after a woman.
6 - He rescues us from our debts with sacrificial diligence.  He worked hard as a builder/carpenter.
8 - Wisdom personified, beginning in verse 22, could also be Jesus talking.  The Father delighted in the Son since the foundation of the world (vs. 30).  The Son is begotten by the Father from eternity (vs. 22 "possessed" means got, originated or acquired).


Psalm 143-145

Have mercy.  Don't give me what I deserve or I'm doomed.
The enemy pursues, but I remember what You have done before.
Show me the way to go, leading me by Your Spirit.

Thank You for training me to fight well and effectively against my enemies!
Fight for me, and I will sing to You.
May our flocks and children thrive.

One generation will tell the next of Your greatness.
God is gracious, and all His works praise Him.
All His creatures are fed, saved and preserved by Him.

How this is about Jesus
143 - He was led by the Spirit (Matthew 4:1).
144 - He was equipped for spiritual warfare, and brings prosperity.
145 - He was given God's everlasting kingdom (vs. 13).

Psalm 144:15
"Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!"

Psalm 145:4
"One generation shall commend your works to another."


John 17

Jesus prays to the Father:
It's time.  Glorify Me and I will glorify You.  Give Your people life, to know Us.
I have shown You to them, and I pray for them.
Let them be one, and protect them as they remain in the world and I come to You.
They are not of the world, but are sanctified by Your Word of truth.
I pray not just for these disciples here now, but for all Your people to come, that they be united and have glorious fellowship with Us.

This is a very important passage - the Son talking to the Father about what He wants for us:
  1. Life in Him
  2. Knowledge of God
  3. Sanctification by the Word, protected from corruption of the world
  4. Unity together
  5. Sharing fellowship and glory with the Trinity

Psalm 139-141

You know everything about me, Lord, and You are anywhere I could go.
You knit me together when I was still in the womb, and knew all my future days then, already.
I hate the malicious and wicked - destroy them!
Search me for any grievous way and lead me in Your way.

Deliver me from violent men - don't let them have their way with me!
Overwhelm them with mischief, trouble, fire and evil.
You will bring justice and let the righteous dwell with You.

Hear me when I call to You.
Protect my speech and my heart from evil.  Let the righteous rebuke me.
They've set traps for me again, but I trust in You.  Trap them while I go free.

How this is about Jesus
139 - He is known completely by the Father - they are one, and draw us into Their perfect fellowship.
140 - He was brought to the Father to dwell and reign with Him forever, as before the Incarnation.
141 - He was trapped by the wicked and crucified so that we could go free.

Praying at Meals / Anger / Same-sex in Bible

Don't bless the food.  Remembering why we pray before we eat.

Anger needs correction, especially in conservative churches.
"there is a reason why angry men often seek out conservative churches. You want to be able reject 'softness....'   Conservative standards are often abused by hypocrites in order to provide a scriptural veneer for old-fashioned bullying."

Tim Keller tears apart (nicely) the main pro-homosexuality arguments.
Excellent article.  Keller has been criticized by conservatives for being too soft on this issue, and maybe even compromising.  Hard for that to stick, reading this.