The Neglected Advent

At this time of year, most Christians are turning their thoughts and hearts to the first coming of Christ. In some cases, churches will devote three or four Sundays and perhaps some special services to this momentous event.

In comparison, very little time and thought is given in the church’s calendar to the second coming of Christ.

Why is that? Why is a massively higher proportion of our attention devoted to the first advent compared to the second?

Speculation

Perhaps it’s because there’s been so much wild speculation about the timeline leading up to the second coming, with some schemes ending up with two or even three more comings of Christ! Who wants to be associated with the fringe?

Or maybe it’s that we are so comfortable in this world, we hardly need deliverance to another world. When I spent a year with persecuted Christians in Eastern Europe in the late 1980′s, there were two memorable aspects to their Christian faith: unashamed singing of the imprecatory psalms and a constant longing for the second coming.

Another reason may be that it’s been so long since the prophecies were made. 2000 years or so on, and nothing has yet happened. All seems to be going along as it always was. The thought seeps in — “If it hasn’t happened by now, will it ever?”

Of course, there’s always just plain old unbelief. We simply don’t believe that it’s going to happen. We might not say that, but for all we think about it or long for it — we might as well admit, “I don’t believe it.”

Timeline

Most commonly, I fear, is the idea that there are so many prophecies still to be fulfilled before the second coming (e.g. rise of the antichrist, conversion of the Jews, etc.) that there’s no chance of Christ’s return anytime soon. We forget that very few were expecting or ready for Christ’s first advent. They understood the prophecies only with the benefit of hindsight, and even then most were still in a major muddle. What makes us think we’re any better placed regarding the second advent. Given humanity’s record in interpreting prophecy, it’s a pretty major gamble to base our non-expectation of Christ’s return upon a timeline of events that must happen first.

Christ’s last words

It’s no accident that the last words of Christ to his church revealed in Scripture are “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20). In fact, he said it three times in the last chapter of Scripture, which surely requires we give much greater prominence to this doctrine in our churches.

I’m not arguing for less first advent. I am arguing for more second advent — in our consciousness, in our conversation, and in our congregations.


Check out

Blogs

Here I Raise my Ebenezer: How this Discipline Buoyed my 2016 | Sayable
Here’s a raw and moving account of one Christian women’s year of testing and of God’s faithfulness.

Don’t Go to Bed with Your Anger | Desiring God
“Consider five reasons (among many) why God is good to ask for our anger each night.”

Isaac Watts & How to Think – Part 1 | The Cripplegate
The beginning of a series on Isaac Watts’s classic book on logic.

Five Keys to Renewing Evangelistic Growth in Your Church | Thom Rainer
“I am observing carefully churches in North America that are truly making an evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, here are five common themes I see repeatedly:”

Further Reflections on the Belief That “All Sins Are Equal”: It’s More Widespread Than You Think | Canon Fodder
Michael Kruger follows up on his article that argued for sin inequality.

Six Ways to Love a Wayward Child | Desiring God
From the mother of a prodigal daughter:

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32 now has new meaning for me. I don’t focus so much on the son, as I have in past readings. I focus now on the father. Watching him. Studying him. Learning from him. Why? Because now I am standing in his shoes — worn-through with worry, wondering, and weariness. Worry for my own child’s spiritual lostness. Wondering when she will return. Weary about what it will take to bring her home. Reading this story from this new — although unwanted — perspective has helped me to discover six principles that were previously lost on me. Principles which I am daily trying to put into practice now. Principles that I hope will help other parents of prodigals, too.

Kindle Books

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton $2.99.

Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Reasons to Believe): How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today’s Scientific Questions by Hugh Ross $2.99.

Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent by Josh Moody $2.99.

Overcoming Emotions that Destroy: Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings That Ruin Relationships by Chip Ingram and Becca Johnson $2.99.

Video

Helen Roseveare (1925-2016): A woman of whom the world was not worthy
Click through for Justin’s reflection upon Helen Roseveare’s death and you must watch the video.


Three Books and Five Tips for Fighting Porn

The three books I recommend most for fighting porn are:

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity With The Power of Grace by Heath Lambert.

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn by Tim Challies.

Soul Purity: A Workbook for Counselors and Small Groups by Dave Coats.

Tim’s book is usually where I start guys with this problem, especially if it’s younger men or men who are not big readers. I then usually graduate them on to Heath’s book, as it is more in-depth and a more demanding read. Soul Purity takes a workbook approach, and is most effective where a counselor, pastor, etc., is prepared to walk someone through the process over a period of time. It’s especially good for maintaining accountability.

On top of the great biblical teaching you’ll find in these books, let me add five tips which can help strengthen the will-power for this life-or-death battle.

1. Exercise. Work out rather than act out. Vigorous and regular physical exercise removes stress and tension from the system, expels unhealthy chemicals, and starts the production of good chemicals. The discipline of self-denying exercise also seems to help discipline and self-denial in other areas of life

2. Sleep. Regular and sufficient sleep also increases will-power. Studies have proven that sleep-deprivation (less than six hours a night) increases the likelihood of immoral behavior. Bill Clinton admitted that his worst sexual sins were committed when he was most stressed and sleep-deprived.

3. Routine. We function best when our lives are are orderly and follow a regular pattern. When our sleeping, eating, working, playing habits are all over the pace, so will be our minds and wills. The more routine and rhythmic our daily schedules, the more we will engender good habits and weaken bad ones.

4. Talk. I know, guys don’t talk, especially not about this. But it’s one of the most effective defensive weapons. Here’s how Carl Stewart put it in 3 Powerful Porn Triggers (And How to Overcome Them):

The best thing you can do when you find yourself in the middle of the Devil’s Triangle [of triggers] is connect with someone. Not hook up with a woman. Not talk with another dude about football. Talk with someone you know and trust, and tell them what you are thinking and feeling. (Yes, I just used the “F” word for guys.)

Here’s why you need to do this: simply acknowledging your thoughts and feelings to another person actually calms these feelings. It regulates them.

Your brain releases oxytocin–the same hormone released during sex (smaller amount) when you connect in this way. This calms the brain down and pulls you out of free fall.

Just telling someone–not even problem solving–is a powerful antidote for the Devil’s Triangle.

I can’t tell you how often men come back into my office after actually trying this. They doubted me, told me it isn’t their style. Former soldiers, hard driving businessmen, engineers, all of them. They are all shocked at how well this works.

I beg you, I dare you to try this.

5. Accountability. See Covenant Eyes for filtering and accountability services on computers, laptops, and mobile devices. Ask someone to disable Safari and any other dangerous Apps on your iPhone and install the Covenant Eyes browser instead.


Study Guide for The Masculine Mandate

My favorite book on Christian masculinity is The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips. Last Friday I began leading a book study on it for the men in my congregation. Here are the study notes for the first two chapters (Chapter 1, Chapter 2) which provide an outline and summary together with the most important quotes. I hope it will encourage you to think about leading a similar study with your mens’ group. Feel free to edit them, add to them, re-arrange them, etc., Whatever it takes to make them useful for your group. I’ll post subsequent chapters as I get to them. The book already has helpful discussion questions.

Chapter One

To give you a tester, chapter one answers the who, where, what, and how of biblical manhood.

  • Who are we? Spiritual creatures (Gen. 2:7)
  • Where did God put us? In a covenant (Gen. 2:8).
  • What are we? Lords and servants (Gen. 1:28)
  • How do we obey God? Work and keep (Gen. 2:15).

SUMMARY: That is the Masculine Mandate: to be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God, to bear God’s fruit by serving and leading.”

Chapter Two

Chapter two develops the two words, “Work” and “Keep” found in Genesis 2:15.

“Work” means to cultivate whatever field God has placed us in, to bring forth good fruit in our workplace, in our church, and in our relationships.

“Keep” calls us to protect as a sword-bearer. We to make our “gardens” fruitful AND safe.

SUMMARY: “Our basic mandate as Christian men is to cultivate, build, and grow (both things and people), but also to stand guard so that people and things are kept safe-so that the fruit of past cultivating and nurturing is preserved.”

The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips.


Check out

Blogs

What Makes a Leader? | HBR Video
“Emotional intelligence sets great leaders apart from the rest. Learn to recognize it in yourself and others with this 7 minute video slide deck.”

Get Your Free Guide to Interpreting Proverbs | LogosTalk
If you have Logos, you can get Tremper Longman’s How to Read Proverbs totally free!

Leadership Training Begins in the Home – Ron Edmondson
“After planting and pastoring a church in New England for the past twenty-five years and watching other well-known leaders rise and fall, I am convinced that a biblical principle is overlooked by many: Leadership training begins in the home.”

How does a pastor fight through the “Preaching Hangover” | Practical Shepherding
Brian Croft with five suggestions for fighting through the fog on Monday morning.

Seven Reasons You Should Not Indulge in Pornography | Themelios from The Gospel Coalition
From Themelios:

You should not indulge in pornography for at least seven reasons: (1) It will send you to hell. (2) It does not glorify God with your body. (3) It is a poisonous, fleeting pleasure. (4) It foolishly wastes your life. (5) It betrays your wife and children. (6) It ruins your mind and conscience. (7) It participates in sex slavery.

Feeding on Christ Low Expectations… – Feeding on Christ
Nick Batzig asks: “Why do multitudes of men and women settle when it comes to the ministry of God’s word? This question obviously has more than one answer.”

Teacher Post in Scottish Christian School
There are very few Christian School in Scotland. This is one of the few and it’s looking for a new teacher.

Are you interested in helping provide a distinctively Christian Education for children?  There is currently a vacancy for a class teacher to teach P6-7 in a small class setting (currently 8 pupils) in this reformed Christian School on the Isle of Lewis.  The newly renamed Providence Christian School offers a warm family atmosphere, full parental support and friendly enthusiastic pupils.

Salary is £14,000 per annum, with possible relocation package. Other benefits may be available.

Further information and application forms available from (01851) 810037/ (01851 704148) and headteacher@lics.org.uk.

Kindle Books

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl $2.99.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi $4.99.

Recommended Book

Child in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson. Read my brief review here.

Video

How to encourage honesty about sin without excusing it


God’s Two Planning Departments

All Christians believe that God has a “Salvation Planning Department.” Although Calvinists and Arminians disagree about what goes on in that department, with Calvinists favoring “Big Government” here and Arminians demanding more “Limited Government,” yet all agree that God plans our salvation.

But God also has a “Good Works Planning Department.” He has not only planned our salvation, but also all the good works that follow our salvation. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

God planned not only His good work of conversion but our good works in sanctification. He has mapped out every single day of our Christian life, and every single good work of each day.

Think of every Christian, in every country, and every good work that each will do each day, and then think of the solo-staffed planning department that has plotted, organized, and arranged all this!

That changes the way we view each day, and every opportunity to serve that comes along. Whether it’s cleaning a drain, typing an email, preaching a sermon, sharing the Gospel, visiting the sick, seeking justice, or phoning a widow, etc., none of these “good works” come by chance.

The Planner has planned it all; long before He was in your plans.