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The suicide rate has risen: What predicts suicide ideation?
Mark Regnerus looks at the data to find out why the suicide rate has risen 12% in 10 years.

If the church wants to reach young people, start by affirming their callings outside the church
So, so true. The ministry is only the highest calling…for those who are called to it. Just as home-making is the highest calling for those who are called to it.

25 Years of Evangelizing my Husband
After years of praying, “Please change him,” this wife discovered that she was the one who needed changing.

What practical tip about hospital visitation do I keep coming back to?
Brian Croft has a simple tip.

What do I do if my child is looking at pornography?
Hope I never have to use this article.

The Bible’s Christocentric structure
I’d go further that this in the Old Testament, but it’s a good starting point.

Join Tim and Me for a Free Ligonier Class

For the past few weeks, Tim Challies and I have been throwing around different ideas for the fourth season of our Connected Kingdom podcast. In the past we’ve done interviews, Q&A’s, monologues, and more. This time we thought we’d do something completely different. We’ve decided to learn something together and we want to invite you all to join us!

As we worked through various ideas, we found we were both eager to begin some kind of Bible study and preferably something not too long. We also wanted to study a less-travelled part of the Bible, something we could learn from ourselves. When we put all these things together, we settled on the Poets, Prophecy, and Wisdom Bible Survey, a 13-week course taught by Dr R.C. Sproul via video lectures. We asked Ligonier Ministries what they could do for us and they generously offered a free class to us and our listeners through Ligonier Connect.

If you sign up, you will get all course materials, a full downloadable study guide, and access to the students forum. Tim and I will moderate the class and record an optional weekly podcast where we reflect on the lessons, and answer some of the questions raised by our fellow students. You won’t need to be taking the class to benefit from the podcast…but we trust it will help!

This link will take you to the course page. Click on the Connected Kingdom Class tab and sign up for the course. Have a look around, introduce yourself, and bookmark next Tuesday for the first Connected Kingdom podcast when we’ll introduce the course and get us started. You will want to have the first lesson completed by March 4.

We’re so looking forward to learning from Dr. Sproul, and from one another, as we study God’s Word together. We hope many of you will join us.

Here is our tentative timetable:

  • Feb 19-28 Sign up period
  • Feb 26 Connected Kingdom Podcast to introduce and explain the class
  • Feb 26-March 4 Watch first lecture and complete questions
  • March 5 Connected Kingdom Podcast on Lecture 1 (and begin lecture 2)
  • Weekly lectures and podcasts thereafter.

Sign up for Connected Kingdom Bible Survey Class: Poets, Prophecy and Wisdom.

God’s Everywhere Grace

What do you see when you look at your neighbor? Do you see his dodgy business dealings, his chaotic garage, his overgrown lawn, his marital tiffs, and his bad language?

Is that all you see? Is there nothing good you can think of?

What about the time he helped you start your car that icy morning? What about his devotion to his wife (despite their noisy arguments)? Or his kindness to your children? Or his heroic service in Operation Desert Storm?

Are these qualities not worth pondering and appreciating?

Barking boss and complaining customers
Now let’s get in the SUV and go to your workplace. Right, what do you see there?

A barking boss, cheating colleagues, complaining customers, and unreliable computers?

Is that all you see? I know it’s all you talk about when you come home every night. But are you seeing the whole picture? Is there no one with any skill or talent? Does everyone treat everyone like dirt every day? Are there no kind words or actions in the rest zone or staff room? Think of all that the machines and computers do accomplish each day. Do customers never express appreciation?

Seriously ask yourself, challenge yourself, are you seeing the whole picture? Or are you overlooking or ignoring a number of benefits and blessings in your workplace?

Damaging and deliberate blindness
If I’ve just described you at home or at work, then you are closing your eyes, ears, and minds to the grace of God, which is not only a serious sin, but it’s also incredibly damaging to you.

“Never!” you retort. “I deeply appreciate God’s grace, I talk about it all the time. But these people and places are just sinful. They have no idea of God’s grace. The people are lost and going to hell. The places are fallen and decaying and destined for everlasting burning. I know God’s grace when I see it, and it ain’t anywhere to be found over the fence or in the factory.”

I agree that these people and places are marred by sin and misery; without salvation, they are doomed. And yet, and yet, I insist that you are choosing not to see the grace of God in these people and places. I’m not talking about God’s saving grace of course, but about what is often called His common grace.

Saving grace is reserved for God’s people alone and results in their salvation and sanctification. Common grace, is experienced by everyone to one degree or another, and although this results in signifcant benefits and blessings in everyone’s lives, it does not save nor sanctify anyone.

Common grace includes all the gifts and blessings God distributes to everyone (hence “common”) and His restraining of evil in us and around us. All of that, the positive giving and the negative restraining, is grace, because it’s God dealing with His creatures in mercy, not justice. As John Murray put it: “Common grace is every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.”

Deny and downplay sin?
I don’t want to deny or downplay sin and its terrible impact on our world and its people, on our neighbors and family. However, if all we see in these areas is sin and misery, we’re closing our eyes to God’s work of grace all over the world and all around us. Yes, God’s common grace is really that common; it extends to all places and all people. There’s no inch or milimeter, tribe or people, neighbor or son, where His grace is not found to some degree.

If we do shut out common grace we’re also shutting down worship and joy, because the more we recognize God’s common grace, the more we will worship God and the more joy we will have in our lives. Common grace produces common worship and common joy. It will change the way we look at everyone and everyplace. Instead of just looking for evidence of sin, usually not hard to find, we will also look for evidence of God’s work, and rejoice in it. We will be less suspicious and cynical, more open to beauty, more enthusiastic to praise and appreciate God and His works.

It may sound more pious to only focus on the sin and lostness of people. But if we do that, if we exclude from view God’s work in, through, and around them, we are shutting our eyes to a beautiful part of God’s daily work and we are missing an opportunity to worship Him for His gracious work.

Renaming ceremony
To help us prise open our eyes and hearts to God’s common grace, let’s start by renaming it. “Common” sounds so, well, common. It could be read and heard in a demeaning way, as if it’s grace that’s not worth much, cheap grace as it were. So let’s call it “everywhere grace.” I toyed with the idea of calling it “everywhere love” as love is easier for most people to understand than grace. However, love can be deserved; grace, by definition, can never be deserved. As we need to preserve the “underserving” nature of this, let’s just call it “everywhere grace.” And let it lead to everywhere worship and everywhere joy.

Next: God’s Every-Animal Grace

Building a Pure Life [Book Review]

Book review of Building a Pure Life by Dave Coats.

This book was forged in the battlefield of personal sanctification as Pastor and Biblical Counselor, Dave Coats, fought for purity in this muddy world. Also, having worked with people in this area of spiritual struggle for many years, he concluded that the best way to help people who already lacked personal discipline and self-control was to provide a workbook format that “forced” them to study the Word of God daily.

Over an eight week period of manageable daily lessons, Dave systematically dismantles the heart idols that surround the sins of impurity and gradually builds a new and powerful sense of the greatness and goodness of God. The mind is renewed by daily readings, songs, meditations, and questions, hopefully renewing the heart in the process.

Structured Approach
If someone was incredibly self-motivated and determined to break with their sensual sins, then they would find this a good structured resource to work through on their own. However, most people who are losing the battle with lust will likely need someone in their lives – a biblical counselor, pastor, or friend – to help push them through the workbook. If you are losing more than winning, and you really want to win, take this book to someone you can trust and ask them to keep you accountable with the daily readings and exercises.

Pre-emptive strike
This would also be a good workbook for “prevention,” a sort of pre-emptive strike, especially for teenagers. Maybe parents could ask their teenage children to work through it to weaken sin before it gets its roots in too deep, and also to build up defensive walls through raising the twin bulwarks of the goodness and greatness of God.

Four Features
I especially appreciated four features in the book. First, the God-centered focus. There’s no question that delighting in God is the most powerful enemy of sin. Dave’s relentless focus on the greatness and goodness of God will produce deep humilty before God and profound love for God.

Second, throughout and especially in the appendix, it deals honestly, bravely, and plainly with masturbation. No punches pulled. Straight between the eyes. Repent of this sin.

Third, it did what very few other books on this subject do. It called into serious question the reality of conversion if people keep falling into this sin. Through personal testimonies, Dave shows that one of the greatest ways we can love people is not to say, “Oh, well, God forgives, it’s tough, no one’s perfect, etc.” Rather it’s to say, “How can you do this and say you know and love God?” If in the past the church has been too unforgiving of those who fell into sexual sin, we are certainly at risk today of “over-forgiving” in the sense that we rarely question the compatability of repeated offending with real conversion.

Fourth, the weekly focus on the cross, keeps hope alive and points all sinners and saints to the only source of purity for the head, the heart, and the hand.

Building a Pure Life by Dave Coats (262 pp). Available from Amazon.

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A weak mother is a good mother
“A good mother is not one who bakes intricate treats, who schools a certain way, who manages her household within an inch of its life, or who has her children in a million wonderful activities. A good mother is one that acknowledges her need for the power of God to train and teach and change the hearts of her children.”

7 Ways to Interpret the Bible Like a Pharisee
How not to do it.

Three Applicational Emphasis in Preaching Deuteronomy
Peter Mead produces excellent short posts that provide big interpretive keys.

On Long Walks and Deep Thoughts
Brice Ashford argues for the intellectual and spiritual benefits of walking. Some of my best ever sermons came to me while walking the beaches beside my Scottish island home.  I do miss that.

Does the Bible permit polygamy
Seems like a ridiculous question, but we’d better get clued up on it because that’s probably the next cultural battlefield.

You must be born again
If you’re not, this article will make you want it. If you are, it will make you value it.

Interrogating a text [Video]

Email and RSS readers click here to view video.

Some of the textual questions we want to ask when preparing a sermon are:

  1. What are the main words in the text?
  2. What are the most important places or personalities?
  3. What doctrines are involved?
  4. What is central and what is peripheral?
  5. How is the text structured?

Previous videos in the How Sermons Work series here.