Check out

Angels and the Promise of a Greater World
Joel Miller argues that we must include angels in our worldview.

The Shorter Catechism Set to Music
“The Gospel Coalition is excited to announce a new music project aimed at helping kids learn about God. In partnership with James and Dana Dirksen and their Songs for Saplings collection, we have made 111 songs adapted from the Westminster Shorter Catechism available for free streaming on TGC’s website.”

9 Lies The Media Likes to Tell about Evangelicals
Frank Viola identified nine common lies perpetuated by people in the media.

Scowling at The Angel
A beautiful story about Christ’s grace shining brightly in a tested marriage.

What Causes Burnout
Brad Hambrick: “Burnout is never caused by a single area of life. Burn out is a function of our total life management. One area of life cannot get out of order without overt choices of neglect being made other areas of life.”

Associate Degrees: Bang for your Education Buck
Infographic that might challenge some of your assumptions about further education.


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament


Is God’s Law Really Our Greatest Enemy?

We live in days when God’s law is often regarded as humanity’s greatest enemy. We’re not surprised when an unbelieving world longs to burst God’s “bands” and cast away His “cords” in the unbridled pursuit of “liberty” (Ps. 2:3). What is surprising, however, is when Christian voices assail God’s Law and portray it as the Christian’s greatest enemy.

The puritan pastor Ralph Venning seemed to have encountered similar misguided attacks upon God’s Law. In his book, The Plague of PlaguesVenning wrote a “just vindication of the Law of God.” He based his remarks upon Romans 7 where the Apostle Paul wrestled through the question of how something as good as God’s Law proved so deadly to him. “Did that which is good bring death to me?” (v. 13).

As he developed his argument, Venning said that the Apostle answers his own question “by way of negation and abhorrence, ‘God forbid!’ Far be it from me or anyone else to think so! No! By no means! To find fault with the law would be to find fault with God. The law is not to be blamed. What is, then? for something is to be blamed.”

He then explained “that sin is the true cause of death. The commandment condemns, or is death to man, not of itself, but because of sin.”

In good puritan fashion, Venning then clarifies the issue with a simple illustration.

It is as if a criminal said to the judge, Oh, my Lord, how cruel and unmerciful you are to condemn me to die!

No, says the judge, it is not I, it is the law. I am only the mouth of the law.

No, says the law, it is not I, it is sin. If you had not sinned, I would not have condemned.

So, by the commandment, sin appears to be a desperate, malignant thing, the proper, true and only cause of man’s condemnation and death.

From this brief yet clear account of the text and context, Venning draws the following conclusions:

  • The law of God as a whole and in every part is good. It is not only not sin, but good.
  • The law, good though it be, when abused condemns and kills.
  • Though the law condemns man’s fault, and man for his fault, yet still the law is good and not to be blamed. The law is as good as ever it was; it is to be justified by man, even when it condemns man.
  • It is not the law, but sin, that works man’s death and ruin.
  • Sin works man’s death and destruction by that which is good, namely, the law. When sin has used man to break the law, it uses the law to break man, to undo him by condemnation and death.

If I could bring this into the 21st Century a bit: Just because the 9/11 terrorists used plastic box-cutters to threaten and subdue the airline pilots and passengers, doesn’t mean we should direct a barrage of hostile verbal ammunition on box-cutters. Box-cutters are good and helpful; terrorists are evil and destructive. Lets stop targeting a friend and ally, save our hostility for sin, and send barrages of vocabulary against it.

Venning leads the charge with the following fusillade: “Sin is a most hideous, devilish and hellish thing, the most wicked, mischievous, virulent, villainous and deadly thing that ever was. Sinful sin! Worse than the Devil!”

Sin is our greatest enemy, not the Law. Time to re-direct our fire.

This post first appeared at The Christward Collective


Worldview

Superachievers Secret Power
Want to know what it is? Humility! The meek truly do inherit the earth. Well not quite. June Price Tangney, is a psychology professor and leading researcher of moral emotions and cognitions at George Mason University. She argues for a pride-humility balance and describes what she considers to be true humility this way: “Having the ability to acknowledge our mistakes and limitations, having an openness to new ideas, and being able to maintain a realistic perspective of our place in the larger world.”

Not quite the virtue of Christian humility, but still intriguing how God has so ordered the world that Christian virtues also coincide with our own self-interests. Just a pity the article rounded off with the example of…Alec Baldwin!

Miracle of Science
65 diseases are now being treated with adult stem cells. Biotech advances could make destroying human embryos for research a relic of the past. Although the scientists are still cautious about the outcomes, it would appear that Christian Medical Association CEO, David Stevens’s words in 2010 are coming true: “Compared to the speculative, controversial, and dangerous embryonic stem cell research that the [Obama] administration insists on funding illegally, iPS cell and adult stem cell research is a cheaper, faster, safer, more efficient and quicker path to the cures we need.”

US Pregnancy Rate Reaches 12 Year Low
Some good news and some bad news in a new government report.

  • The U.S. pregnancy rate has fallen almost continuously over the last decade and reached a 12-year low in 2009 (latest year for which stats are available)
  • The U.S. pregnancy rate fell 12%, from 115.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990, to 102.1 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2009.
  • The total number of pregnancies in 2009 was about 6.3 million, which resulted in 4.1 million live births, 1.1 million induced abortions and 1.1 million pregnancy losses.
  • Women ages 25 to 29 had the highest pregnancy rate whereas in 1990 and 2000, the pregnancy rate was highest for women ages 20 to 24.
  • The age group with the biggest decline in pregnancy rate was 15- to 17-year-olds, for which the pregnancy rate dropped 53% and reached a new historic low in 2009.
  • The abortion rate in 2009 was 32% lower than in 1990 and was the lowest in more than three decades, according to the report. In 2009 there were 18.5 abortions per 1,000 women, down from 27.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 1990.
  • The 2009 abortion rate for teenagers was 16.6 per 1,000 women, a more than 50% reduction from 1990, when the rate was 37.4 per 1,000 women.

The study did not examine the reasons for this decline but two possibilities are the recession which began in 2007, and the fact that teens are more likely to use contraception when they first have sex.

I also wonder about the impact of the morning-after pill on reducing birth-rates among teenagers especially.

The Righteousness in Hobby Lobby’s Case
An Op-Ed in the LA Times no less argues that business leaders should not have to check their faith at the door. Referring back to the law President Clinton signed, the report says: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act reaffirmed an idea that is deeply rooted in America’s history and traditions — namely, that politics and policy should respect and, whenever possible, make room for religious commitments and conscientious objections.” 

New York Times: 100 Notable Books
What a revealing window into our culture. What I find notable is that the great majority of the books deal in dark and dismal themes. There are some exceptions, but a quick scan of the titles and descriptions give a frightful insight into the sex, violence, chaos, and  is pouring into the minds of the educated. It’s HBO for the educated.

e-Wasteland
It’s a long way from the Apple Store to one of the largest electronic waste dumps. The article’s photos are even more shocking than the video. I think I saw someone sleeping there in my first computer. Seriously, though, it certainly makes you think twice about the wastefulness of our society and its devastating impact on others.


Check out

Role Playing for Jesus
An evangelism tip on how to deal with aggressive skeptics.

6 Questions To Ask Before You Share the Gospel
More helpful teaching on being a wise witness for Christ.

Answering Four Street-Level Arguments for Immorality
I seem to be in a bit of an argumentative spirit today.

Jesus, The Theological Educator
Long but very worthwhile Themelios article about how Jesus is the goal, the model, and the means of theological education.

5 Gossips You Will Meet
If you fancy some self-examination, click this one.

The Buffett Formula- How To Get Smarter
When asked how to get smarter, Warren Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”


“Modern Moms Aren’t As Busy as Moms of the 1960′s”

You probably don’t want to share Atlantic article with your wife. It argues that although mothers may feel too busy to sit down, on average they are far more sedentary than moms were 50 years ago.

Since 1965, women with children have logged increasingly more time watching television and driving, and increasingly less time playing with children, doing chores, and exercising, according to a new report published this week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The Mayo Clinic! So it must be right. Right?

The statistic that forms the basis for their conclusions is:

In 1965, mothers of children aged 5 to 18 spent 14.2 more hours a week being physically active than being sedentary. In 2010, they spent 3.8 more hours a week being sedentary than they did on physical activity.

“Physical activity” was defined as time spent cooking and cleaning, along with playing with children and exercising. “Sedentary activity” was everything else non-work-related, so time spent in front of tablets, televisions, and computers, as well as time spent driving.

The report concludes with a warning: “If mothers set examples for children, they’re increasingly modeling a screen- and car-based existence, which probably doesn’t bode well for either their own or their kids’ health.”

So, men, is it time to get the whip out, yell a bit louder, junk the washing machine, and buy our (allegedly) lazy wives Insanity for Christmas?

I don’t think so.

Taxi Time
I believe the main reason for the change in the statistics is the amount of time moms spend taxiing their children to all the various school, church, and leisure activities. It’s possible that moms may not play as much with their children, but they certainly facilitate a lot of play.

Some of this non-stop chauffeuring is unquestionably excessive and unhealthy both for the moms and the kids. Increased mobility has increased opportunities, which can quickly get out of hand and take over our lives. However, on the positive side, that time in the minivan is often valuable relationship building time (as long as you don’t have a DVD player in the car!). Moms and kids are “forced” to stop and chat to one another, which can only be healthy.

And anyway, do any of us in our 30′s 40′s and 50′s really remember our moms being our play buddies? I doubt it.  Did any of us want or expect our moms to play goalkeeper or first base? I don’t think so. Yet we never doubted their love for us as they sacrificed and spent themselves for us throughout our childhood.

Screen Time
But if Mom’s Taxi Service explains some of this change, what about the increased screen time? Again, let me run to the defense of our moms.

Although, there’s obviously way too much daytime TV and time-wasting Facebooking in there in some cases, much of our moms’ screen time is also home and family related. If I take my own wife for an example, she hardly ever sits down and uses her iPad and iPhone for personal entertainment. Instead she is tracking finances, budgeting, gathering recipes, building meal plans, ferreting out bargains on Craigslist, looking for homeschool resources, organizing the kids, keeping in touch with family and friends, etc.

That sounds like work to me. It’s different work to my mom’s work in the 70′s but it’s still work and still selfless.

Service Time
The report “complains” that moms are spending less time cooking and cleaning. I say, celebrate and enjoy the blessed liberty that washing machines, vacuums, microwaves, and dishwashers have provided. The question is not “How much less time are moms spending on cooking and cleaning?” The question should be, “What are moms doing with the freed-up time that these modern conveniences have provided?”

Again, just going from personal observation of many moms in my own circles, I believe many of them are using that “free” time in the service of others. They visit the sick, they volunteer, they serve on committees, they help at school, they lead Bible studies, they help neighbors. No, it’s not cooking and cleaning, but it’s valuable work and service that blesses many people.

Guilty Statistics
The problem with stats is that an extremely serious problem in a minority of people can be generalized to a fairly serious problem for everyone. For example, if 20% of people are three times the weight they should be, the statistical average weight of the whole population looks grim. But 80% of us could be really quite healthy.

That’s what I think is happening here. I do think there are serious problems in a minority of moms, especially some poor moms (as the report does highlight at one point), and that problem is being generalized to all moms, creating false and unnecessary guilt.

To the vast majority of moms I say, Thank you for all you do for your children and husbands. 

And if you are feeling guilty, whether it’s false guilt or true guilt, take that painful burden to Jesus Christ to forgive you, comfort your conscience, and assure you of His empowering love.