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A Review: “The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts”

Why Abraham Was Right: A Reply to Rachel Held Evans – Reformation21 Blog

The Mid-Degree Crisis and the Value of Work During Seminary | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

How does a pastor raise up men for ministry? | Practical Shepherding

A New Daily Podcast from Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Working on Learning to Rest – Feeding on Christ

Contentment Does Not Come Naturally | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

He Will Hold Me Fast: A Cancer Journey (Part 1) | True Woman

He Will Hold Me Fast: A Cancer Journey (Part 2) | True Woman

Seasons of Growth by Chris Larson | Ligonier Ministries Blog 

Learning to Lead Differently as You Age | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

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The Most Honest Atheist In The World

The Atlantic has published a startlingly honest article by Crispin Sartwell, as you can see even from it’s title, Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK. In it Sartwell admits:

  • The atheistic worldview “is similar to the worldview of religion—neither can be shown to be true or false by science, or indeed by any rational technique. Whether theistic or atheistic, they are all matters of faith, stances taken up by tiny creatures in an infinitely rich environment.”
  • His view of the universe as a natural, material system is based on his interpretation of his experience not on a rational argument.
  • “I have taken a leap of atheist faith.”
  • Atheism can be as much a product of family, social, and institutional context as religious faith.
  • “The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false.”
  • Just as religious people have often offloaded the burden of their choices on church dogma, so some atheists are equally willing to offload their beliefs on “reason” or “science” without acknowledging that they are making a bold intellectual commitment about the nature of the universe, and making it with utterly insufficient data.
  • Science rests on emotional commitment (that there is a truth), a passionate affirmation of desire, in which our social system backs us up.

What a refreshing blast of humble and honest air! You cannot but admire such a sincere, transparent, and honorable atheist. But the article ends on a painfully sad note, which may partly explain Sartwell’s atheism, and maybe even his humility:

Genuinely bad things have happened to me in my life: One of my brothers was murdered; another committed suicide. I’ve experienced addiction and mental illness. And I, like you, have watched horrors unfold all over the globe. I don’t—I can’t—believe this to be best of all possible worlds. I think there is genuinely unredeemed, pointless pain. Some of it is mine.

By not believing in God, I keep faith with the world’s indifference. I love its beauty. I hate its suffering…I’m perfectly sincere and definite in my belief that there is no God. I can see that there could be comfort in believing otherwise, believing that all the suffering and death makes sense, that everyone gets what they deserve, and that existence works out in the end.

But to believe that would be to betray my actual experiences, and even without the aid of reasoned arguments, that’s reason enough not to believe.

As is so often the case, the agony of suffering is a large contributor to Sartwell’s atheistic faith. There are many like him, young and old, who find personal and global pain an insurmountable obstacle to Christian faith. In my experience, quoting Romans 8:28, preaching God’s sovereignty, or offering philosophical arguments about suffering in such situations is usually ineffective.

If I had the opportunity, I’d take Crispin to the historic events around Calvary and especially to the sufferings of God’s Son. I’d try to keep him at the cross as long as possible, and I’d work at explaining what happened there and how this is the only way into the power and wisdom of God. It’s also the way God calls both religionists and atheists to saving faith. As the Apostle Paul said:

We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

Top 10 Books for Youth Groups

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Previous posts include:

Today we’re looking at Top 10 Books for Youth Groups. This list was supplied by PRTS graduate Russell Herman, who has had a lot of experience in teaching teens, and also in leading church youth groups in book studies. He wanted me to say that these are not in any order of preference, and that his comments on each book are to help churches and youth leaders to see if it matches the youth they are working with.

1. The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come by John Bunyan, edited by C. J. Lovik.

2. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson.  Also worth mentioning is the companion book, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me.

3. The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard. Helps a believer identify and deal with indwelling (update of the material of John Owen’s Indwelling Sin and Mortification of Sin)

4. Through the Looking Glass: Reflections on Christ That Change Us by Kris Lundgaard. Directs the reader to meditate on the beauty and glory of Christ (update of the material from John Owen’s Glory of Christ)

5. Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken.  Takes the reader through 1 Corinthians 13 focusing on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

6. The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross…Every Day by Jerry Bridges. Takes the reader through the work of Jesus Christ and then helps the reader see the implication of those truths on their day to day life.

7. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris.  Arguably a teenaged answer to John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life.

8. Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney. In an egocentric age this is a great book to deal with pride and help lead people towards the path of humility.

9. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung.  This is a great book to ground young people in a Biblical view of Scripture.

10. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung. An extremely helpful book for helping young people with decision making.

Reader Suggestions

Please put your own suggestions in the comments box and I’ll add them here.

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters by Josh Harris.

Submission in Practice: 10 Steps

There’s always huge potential for misunderstanding when we try to explain the Bible’s teaching that a wife submit to her husband. No matter how much we try, people hear “submission” and think “oppression.” That’s why I thought it would be helpful to give an example of how the principle of submission works out in practice. I hope that will demonstrate how different (and even beautiful) biblical submission is compared to what people often think about it.

Using the example of buying a house, here’s how the husband’s leadership and the wife’s submission interact in the process:

1. Initiative: Having prayerfully considered the family’s needs, the husband says to his wife: “I think we should sell this house and buy another.” Notice, he doesn’t say, “We will…” but, “I think we should…”

2. Explanation: Next the husband says, “Here are my reasons.” He doesn’t just say “We’re doing this!” He explains his reasoning to his wife.

3. Invitation: The husband then invites his wife’s opinion, “What do you think?” This is not a monologue but a dialogue.

4. Gratitude: This is not necessary to say in every situation, but the wife should regularly affirm her husband’s leadership in general and express gratitude for it, especially if she is about to disagree with a specific proposal from her husband.  She might say something like, “I acknowledge your leadership in general, and I appreciate this thoughtful initiative, but…”

5. Listening: If the wife agrees with the proposal, then the decision is made. However, if she disagrees, she should freely state that and the husband must listen carefully and thoughtfully to her reasons.

6. Persuasion: The husband doesn’t listen to his wife’s reasons for objecting and then just go ahead anyway. No, if she disagrees, then the husband interacts with her reasoning and seeks to persuade her.

7. Patience: If his wife still disagrees, then there should be a reasonable period of time – days, weeks, or months – given to prayer, further discussion, consultation, and attempts at compromise.

8. Acceptance: After this time, if his wife is not yet persuaded and no compromise has proven possible, the wife must accept the husband’s leadership and submit to his will.

9. Support: The wife must avoid sulking or subtle opposition. Instead she should say something like, “I respect your leadership and trust your judgment, and will do all I can to make it go well.”

10. Review: When a decent period time has passed, the couple should re-visit the decision. If it turns out well, the wife should praise her husband for his leadership. If it turns out badly, the husband should confess his error and failing.

General points

Let me add a few general points about this process:

1. It’s rarely as neat and tidy as this, but this gives a general structure that can be adapted to different situations.

2. The husband should be extra careful to pay attention to his wife’s opinion in areas where she is more knowledgeable or gifted than he is. He should be extremely reluctant to insist on his will in these areas.

3. The husband should take opportunities to accept his wife’s wisdom whenever possible. If the husband is seen to be flexible and accommodating when he can be in good conscience, it will make it much easier for the wife to submit to her husband’s will on other occasions.

4. The husband may delegate many decisions to his wife, as long as he’s not abdicating responsibility and as long as she is willing to take the responsibility.

5. If the husband is overruling wife all the time, there’s something seriously wrong in that relationship. But if the husband never crosses his wife’s will, there’s something wrong there too.

6. The wife can also initiate, she can come to her husband and say, “Honey, I think we should move house. Would you give some time to thinking, praying, and talking about that?”

7. All this is in the context of the husband’s Christ-like love and Christ-like leadership.

8. The most important question for both husband and wife is not “How do I get my will done?” but “What’s God’s will for us and how do we do it?”

Previous Posts in this Series

Completing not Competing

Five Ways to Lead Your Wife

Two Models of Husband-Wife Love

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

“Wives, submit to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22).

These words, especially the “S” word, sound horrendous to most modern ears and also to many Christian ears. That’s partly because most people’s idea of marriage comes from Hollywood. But it’s also partly because we may have had awful experiences or seen terrible examples of this biblical principle being abused.

That’s why it’s so important to begin any consideration of submission with the husband’s duty to be a Christ-like leader and a Christ-like lover in a complementary relationship, and also with confession and repentance over our past failures in these areas.

But whatever we do, we can’t get away from the s-word. We not only find it twice in Ephesians 5, but also in Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. So, instead of denying its existence or spinning it out of existence, let’s turn away from every worldly model of marriage and every sinful model of submission, and note three biblical models that God provides.

  • Model 1: The Church’s Submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  • Model 2: Christ’s Submission to His Father (1 Peter 3:1-4)
  • Model 3: Old Testament Women’s Submission to Their Husbands (1 Peter 3:5-6)

We don’t have space here to examine each of these, so let’s just explore the second model for the moment.

Christ’s Submission to His Father

Peter called Christian citizens to submit to pagan government (1 Peter 2:13) and Christian servants to submit to pagan masters (1 Peter 2:18), each situation often involving much difficulty and suffering. But he urges Christians to model that submission on Christ’s submission to His Father’s will, which also involved much difficulty and suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25).

With that model in his mind Peter then turned to Christian women who were married to pagan husbands and said:

Wives, likewise [or, "in the same way"], be submissive to your own husbands (1 Peter 3:1).

So, why is Christ’s submission to His Father’s will such a good model of a wife submitting to her husband? Consider the three stages of Christ’s relation to His Father.

Stage 1: Essential Equality

In line with the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, the Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one God, equal in power and glory.” As far as personhood, identity, essence, and value, the Father and the Son are equal. Being equal with God was not an act of robbery but was something the Son was entitled to (Philippians 2:6).

Likewise, the man and the woman are essentially equal; equal in personhood, identity, essence, and value. They are as equal as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are equal. That means totally equal without a millimeter of difference in elevation. 

Stage 2: Servant Role

Though the Son was equal with the Father, yet for the glory of God and the good of souls, He was willing to take on a servant or submissive role, which also involved much difficulty and suffering (Phil. 2:6-7). Taking on this submissive role was something He delighted to do and spoke of it often, especially in John’s Gospel (e.g. John 6:38). The Son remained essentially equal with the Father throughout His earthly life – at no time did He cease to be God – but for a limited period of time and for a specific purpose, He functioned as a servant obeying His Father’s will.

Just as Christ temporarily submitted to His Father’s will for the glory of God and for the good of sinners, so the wife is called to submit to her husband for a limited period of time, for the glory of God, and for the good of sinners. But at no time does she cease to be essentially equal with her husband.

No one is saying this will always be easy. However, especially if the Lord blesses a woman with a husband who also models Christ-like love and Christ-like leadership, submission should often be as delightful to wives as it was to Christ Himself. There is nothing degrading and plenty that is beautiful about modeling Christ’s submission to His Father.

Stage 3: Exalted to Equality

Just as Christ’s submissive role came to an end with His exaltation to heaven and His being given a name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9), so once a wife’s earthly journey reaches it’s end, she will be exalted to an equally high position with her husband (and all men) in heavenly glory (1 Peter 3:7).

And just as Christ’s heavenly glory shines all the brighter for His willing acceptance of His earthly mission and submission, so will the wife’s glory shine all the brighter insofar as she also accepted Her God given role on the earth. And just as with Christ, the harder the submission, the greater the glory.

Tomorrow we’ll explore what Christ-like submission looks like in practice.

A Puritan on Ebola

Shortly after the great plague and the great fire of London, which between them killed many thousands of people, the Puritan Thomas Vincent wrote a book called God’s Terrible Voice in the City. (You can buy the book here or read it online here). It was based on the text in Micah 6:9: “Listen! The Lord’s voice cries unto the city. The man of wisdom shall see Your name. Hear the rod, and the One who has appointed it!” Among his first words were:

Friends, it is high time for all of you to retire yourselves, and bethink yourselves, and wisely to consider God’s dealings with you; to open your ear, and labor to understand these speaking judgments, lest, if God be provoked by your deafness and incorrigibleness, to speak a third time — it be in your utter ruin and desolation!

He went on to describe how God speaks by His Word and Works, especially His Works of judgment, and his graphic descriptions of the plague sound like a current CNN bulletin!

Descriptions of the plague

1. It is so poisonous a disease: it poisons the blood and spirits, breeds a strange kind of venom in the body, which breaks forth sometimes in boils, and ulcers, and great carbuncles; or else works more dangerously, when it preys upon the vitals more inwardly.

2. It is so repulsive a disease: It results in putrefaction and running sores, giving a most repulsive smell.

3. It is so infectious a disease: It spreads itself worse than the leprosy among the Jews; it infects not only those which are weak, and infirm in body — but also those that are young, strong, healthful, and of the best health.

4. It is so deadly a disease: It kills where it comes without mercy; very few do escape. And it kills suddenly! It gives no warning before it comes…So it gives little time of preparation before it brings to the grave.

The plague is not only terrible to those who have it but also to those who don’t “because of their danger of being infected by it; the fear of which has made such an impression upon some, that it has drained out of their hearts all affections of love and pity to their nearest relations and dearest friends.”

Reasons for the plague

1. Because people do not hearken to the voice of his Word and messengers. God speaks audibly by ministers, and when they are not regarded, he speaks more feelingly by judgments! He speaks first by threatenings, and when they are slighted, he speaks by executions. God first lifts up his voice, and warns by his Word — before he lifts up his arm, and strikes with his rod! When men grow dull of hearing the sweet calls of the Gospel, God is even forced to thunder, that he may pierce their ear! When God speaks to the ears and they are shut — God speaks to the eyes and other senses, that his mind may be known. 

2. Because they do not hearken to the voice of his goodness and mercies. The goodness and forbearance of God, speaks unto men from him, and call upon them to forbear sin for shame; to repent and return to him, Romans 1:4. But when men despise the riches of his goodness, and deafen their ear unto the language of his mercies, and trample his patience under foot, yet sometimes his patience is turned hereby into fury, and his anger breaks forth into a flame, and consumes them by the blow of dreadful temporal judgments!

3. Because they will not hearken to the voice of lesser afflictions. When God’s Word is not heard, he speaks by his rod. When his rod is not heard, he shoots with his arrows and strikes with his sword. And if lesser afflictions are not minded, then God speaks by more dreadful awakening judgments: as the sins of men do precede the judgments of God, so usually lesser judgments do precede greater judgments; and as there are degrees and steps which men usually do make before they arrive to a great height in sin — so there are degrees and steps which God usually takes, in inflicting his judgments for sin.

Vincent used Leviticus 26:15-40 to prove that God sends increasing judgments upon increasingly deaf and unresponsive nations and peoples and warns:

Thus God proceeds by steps and degrees, in the execution of his fierce anger upon a rebellious people; when God speaks by ordinary diseases and is not heard — then sometimes he sends a plague! And if after a plague, people will not return to him who smites them, nor seek to pacify God’s anger which is kindled against them, but walk so much the more contrary unto him — then he will walk contrary to them in fury, and send fire into their cities to devour their habitations! And if the voice of the fire is not heard, he has other judgments in readiness — sword, famine, and the like! And if temporal judgments are not heeded — then he will bring upon them eternal judgments.

I couldn’t help but think that this faithful and courageous pastor sounds like the Al Mohler of his day.