Do You Know the "2nd-Person" God?

I've been focused on grammar lately, thanks to my children's education, especially verbs in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person.  So when I read Psalm 23 for my devotions this morning something new hit me.

David starts out talking about God in the 3rd person.  "Yahweh is my shepherd."  Notice the precious verbs.  "He makes me, He leads me, He restores, leads.  Then in verse 4, David becomes the subject of the verb, but only for the first half of the verse, when he considers facing death.

After that, God is the subject again, but now in the 2nd person.  Once David faces adversity, He addresses God directly.  "You are with me, You prepare a table, You anoint my head."

David moves from "He and me" to "You and me."

Has this happened in your life?

Some people grow up in the church, and God is just talked ABOUT.  They never get to a personal relationship with Him.  Some Christians are very intellectually minded, and personally facing the living God is far from their thoughts.  Prayers TO Him are rare or perfunctory.

God's people must learn to address Him in the 2nd person.  This may be one reason our prayers wander.  When we come down to facing God directly, it is just too much for us.  Prayer TO God is inherently 2nd person, grammatically, but we often have a way of staying 3rd person in our heart's posture.  We would rather think about Him, than abide with Him and say, "You, O Lord..."

But that is just what we need.

"You [Lord] have said, 'Seek my face."
My heart says to you,
'Your face, Lord, do I seek.' "
Psalm 27:8

Seek His face today.


Being men and women today // Situational Ethics? // How to Keep Your Pastor Happy

Toby Sumpter speaks well at a wedding, on how to be men and women today, with all the conflicting opinions on men's and women's roles.

RC Sproul, on applying Bible principles to life:
"God's law is both situational and non-situational.  It's situational because it must always be applied in specific situations, but it's non-situational because the situation itself never dictates the good."

How do you help your pastor be happy in his work, and happy to see you?
I enjoyed this thought from Hebrews 13:17.


Preaching Pitfalls // Black Lives Matter and Crime // Legalism

Michael Kruger covers 7 pitfalls of preaching.
#1 and #3 are much on my mind lately.

Hillsdale College's newsletter Imprimis has some solid research on the recent rise of crime, and the black lives matter movement.

Burk Parsons on legalism:
"We invent laws around God's law.  We attempt to turn our preferences into God's principles."
"Legalism is not obedience to God and His law....  Legalism is not pursuing holiness."
"The ironic thing about legalism i that it doesn't make people want to work harder, it makes them want to give up."


Tulips // Patriarchy // Meekness

Drone footage of tulip fields in the Netherlands, with a short meditation on "The grass withers, the flower fades..."

Kevin DeYoung gives the best treatment of complementarianism (male leadership) I've read for a long time.

Meek isn't weak.  And meekness is essential in the church.


Did Jesus Harrow Hell? // Value of Public Prayers

I learned this morning that James Boice believed in what's called the harrowing of Hell.
"Jesus Christ emptied paradise in Hades between the moment of His death and the moment of His resurrection and... He took these Old Testament believers to heaven with Him when He ascended to the Father on the first Easter morning."
James Boice, Philippians, pg. 159.

R. Kent Hughes on the power of public prayers in church.
"Thought-through public prayers will enrich and elevate public worship and the prayer life of the congregation....  The set prayers and prayers of confession must never be “said,” but prayed with the full engagement of our minds and hearts. Our people can sense the difference."


No Legalistic Preaching // Your Identity // Suicide

On avoiding legalistic preaching.

David Powlison is excellent on keeping your roles in life from becoming your identity.

My friend Peter Jones compiles some of the Reformed catechisms' teaching on self-harm and suicide.


Scaring Kids Well // God Speaks // Provoking Children

N.D. Wilson, on why he writes scary stories for kids.
It's to tame the darkness, not glorify it.
My family is enjoying his latest, Outlaws of Time

Michael Horton gives a great, short answer to the question, "Does God talk to us?"

Tim Challies on not provoking children to anger.


Church Conflict // Sheep Acting Like Wolves // No Culture?

Helpful words from Philippians 4 on dealing with conflict in the local church.

CJ Bowen, CREC pastor in Annapolis, on how to tell a sheep in the church, from a wolf, from a "were-sheep."

Ever pessimistic Carl Trueman says we have no culture anymore.
"We now live in a world where refusing a man the right to expose himself in a woman’s toilet is enough to risk your city losing the right to host a football game."

"The church is a culture and the West is now an anti-culture."

I disagree with his conclusion, though.  Just because we realize the culture is against us is no reason to give up on the idea of Jesus redeeming people and cultures from enemy territory.


Lord of the Flies

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

William Golding powerfully depicts the depravity of human nature in this story of a group of boys stranded on a desert island. They form a society with rules and order and a chief, represented by a seashell (conch). But from the beginning they have lost one boy. And things unravel from there. Humanity’s inexorable tendency to hurt and kill is fearfully unleashed.

While the boys fear a beast who may be roaming the island, the beast winds up being the boys themselves. Golding uses the phrase “Lord of the Flies” only in one scene that I remember. When the hunters leave the head of a pig on a stick, as a sacrifice to the beast, Simon sees it later covered with flies, and imagines the beast speaking to him. Its ugly words make clear that the beast isn’t “something you can hunt and kill” but is “part of you” (133).

Teachers like assigning this book in junior high or high school, which means many know of it, and groan with disgust and dislike on remembering the heavy and depressing theme. We do not like to stare our sin and depravity in the face. But God made Israel look, in the sacrifices He requires in the temple. He makes us look at the price, guilt and ugliness of sin, at the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to see it.

But Golding offers no real solution to defeat the Lord of the Flies (Beelzebub, in Greek). The boys’ savior is a naval officer with a sub-machine gun on his boat. Golding says the officer represents the adult version of the boys. They are hunting Ralph, the main character, at the end, while the officer is hunting another man, also to kill. At the end Ralph weeps “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart” (186-187).

We can also weep, but must look beyond this book to the Lord of Life who defeated Beelzebub, and offers to restore the violent soul. To resurrect the dead ones. He swallows up death and depravity, leaving light and joyful life in its place.

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Richard II

Richard IIRichard II by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shakespeare tells the downfall of Richard II.

At the beginning he sits on the throne but unable to bring peace to two fighting nobles. "Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be rul'd by me... Deep malice makes too deep incision: Forget, forgive; conclude, and be agreed."

But they don't listen. To the king. Richard has lost his grip. He banishes them, but Bolingbroke comes back and attacks and defeats Richard.

Here are some quotes, either famous, or that get across the tragic tenor of the whole play.

"Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain" (II.1).
"The ripest fruit first falls" (II.1).
"Comfort's in heaven; and we are on the earth, Where nothing lives but crosses, care, and grief" (II.2).

"Let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings" (III.2).

"You may my glories and my state depose, But not my griefs; still am I king of those" (IV. 1).
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me" (V.5).
"Pride must have a fall" (V.5).

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Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of ErrorsThe Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just fun, without the thematic depth characteristic of later Shakespeare plays.

Two sets of twins are separated at birth and come across each other when the two Syracuse citizens go to Ephesus. They don't realize it and take the twin for the one they've always known. Lots of funny misunderstandings ensue, and also real hostility. There's a parallel between the personal hostility and the political enmity between cities. The duke sets things right at the end and an abbess reunites the family.

The message could go wrong if we glibly assume all enmity results from misunderstanding. But Shakespeare knows that reconciliation and peace will triumph in the end.

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Love's Labor's Lost

Love's Labors LostLove's Labors Lost by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The King and his companions take a vow to fast, study, and look on no woman. This fast falls apart when a delegation from France arrives - the princess and her entourage - and petitions the king. Each of the men fall in love with a woman, and start writing sonnets to her. They find each other out and justify breaking their oaths on technicalities. They go to woo the ladies in disguise, but they know they're coming and spurn them for breaking their oath. When news comes that the princess' father has died, she gets ready to leave. The men repent and the women insist they wait a year to prove their love.

In his comedic fashion, Shakespeare pokes fun at how men act when in love with women. Right after they take a vow with each other that they won't look at a woman, they each fall in love hard and break rationalize breaking their vow! The women later rationalize accepting their love, when they were resolved not to before.

There is a ton of wordplay and punnery - it's hard to keep up sometimes.

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Venus and Adonis

Venus and AdonisVenus and Adonis by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shakespeare's 1200 line poem, 6 lines per stanza, seems meant to explain why love is so bittersweet.

Venus seduces Adonis but after almost giving in, he resists and wants to go hunting. She is afraid he will be killed by a boar, and he is. In her grief, Venus prophesies, "Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend; It shall be waited on with jealousy, Find sweet beginning but unsavoury end... all love's pleasure shall not match his woe" (lines 1135-40).

The first half contains Shakespeare's strongest sexual language. It isn't pornographic, but the innuendo is clear (see below, or not, for an example). It is fascinating that Venus the goddess of love is repulsed in love, after this description of beauty and her enticing words and arguments to Adonis to give in. "She's Love, she loves, and yet she is not lov'd" (610).

Shakespeare seems to be showing us the limits and unmanageable nature of romance and lust.

"Now is she in the very lists of love,
Her champion mounted for the hot encounter:
All is imaginary she doth prove,
He will not manage her, although he mount her;
That worse than Tantalus' is her annoy,
To clip Elysium, and to lack her joy."

It isn't all this crass, and much of it is edifying. I'll end with a good example, as Adonis speaks to and rejects Venus.

"I hate not love, but your device in love...
Call it not love,... since sweating lust on earth usurp'd his name;....
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,
But lust's effect is tempest after sun;
Love's gentle spring doth always fresh remain,
Lust's winter comes ere summer half be done.
Love surfeits not; lust like a glutton dies:
Love is all truth; lust full of forged lies."

Consistent with Shakespeare in his plays, he depicts the thing he later rejects. In this case, lust.

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Sing // Apologize // The Holy Spirit

Tim Challies calls us to sing in church, FOR one another.
The next time you are singing a familiar song in church, try looking around at other people in the sanctuary.

Common grace wisdom from Today - 6 parts of a complete apology.

Kevin DeYoung gives solid teaching on the Holy Spirit.


Laughter, not Fear or Anger // Overcoming Weariness // God's Happiness

Doug Wilson: "Anger and fear cede far too much authority to the foe."
Sometimes laughter is the best response.

Good words for the spiritually weary.

Mark Jones offers up a theologically rich meditation on the happiness and joy of God.