Check out

Three Things I’d Like to See in the Christian Blogosphere in 2014
I especially like #2.

Al Martin Website
This developing website provides resources on pastoral ministry from Pastor Al Martin. No one person was more influential on me in my early Christian life and my view of Christian ministry than this dear brother. And in God’s good providence, that blessing has become even closer and richer in recent years.

Actively Engaged in the Abortion Battle
Matt Chandler’s stirring cry to get involved or miss out.”Roe v. Wade started here in Dallas. It would be awesome to see it crushed here in Dallas. Let’s pray.”

When Joy Returned to my Ministry in Rocky New England
“During this rough patch God taught me several lessons, but one piercing question really stuck out: Do I really trust the Word through the Spirit to do the work of ministry? As I pondered this question I slowly recognized that my weariness and discouragement were partly due to trusting things outside God’s Word.”

Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck
Trevin Wax: “ I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today. But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.”

Fighting Porn by F.A.I.T.H.
Gavin Ortlund with a fresh approach to fighting porn.

How Mark Dever Passes Out Authority
This is so, so good. What a helpful model.


I’ve Started HRT

It is almost impossible to stop one habit without starting another. By stopping one bad habit, you create a vacuum that another bad habit will rush into unless you fill it with a good habit of your own choice. That’s why in the New Testament we read things like, “Put off the old man, and put on the new man.” “Depart from evil, and do good.” You might call it HRT, Habit Replacement Therapy.

It’s also found in the Old Testament. For example, we saw yesterday how in Psalm 37, David struggled to stop dwelling upon the painful injustices he had suffered. But he also revealed that he battled against this depressing and demoralizing habit by replacing it with delighting in God (v. 4). That’s the alternative: dwell upon injustice or delight in God.

Good things or the best thing?
Why God? Why not anything else? I can delight in sport, in my career, in my possessions, in nature, in food and drink, in friends, etc. Yes, these are good things; but they are not the best thing. God is the best thing. Delighting in God is the best alternative to dwelling upon injustice because God is the total opposite of injustice.

Injustice is full of ugliness, pain, hatred, lies, evil, inequity, and destruction. God is full of beauty, blessedness, love, truth, goodness, justice, and salvation.

If dwelling upon injustice produces anger, impatience, anxiety, depression, fear, and insecurity, delighting in God will produce love, patience, calm, joy, confidence, and stability. Delighting in God will produce delight!

Delight and God?
Did you read that sentence right? Delight and God in the same sentence?

Yes, true Christianity is a pleasure and a delight. Christian pleasure is not a contradiction. God doesn’t condemn pleasure; He says, “Get your pleasures in me!” He calls us to be excited, captivated, enthused, enthralled, and ravished with Himself.

But where do I start? “God” Seems so BIG! Start with Jesus Christ. You cannot delight in God without knowing God; you cannot know God without knowing Jesus. Read the Gospels, meet Jesus, know God, and delight in Him as you go. Soon, by faith, you will be able to say what Spurgeon said to unbelievers who offered him their joy: “We Christians do have joy, we do have delights, such that we would not part with one dram of ours for tons of yours; not drops of our joy for rivers of your delights.”

Desires Satisfied
David said that if we delight in God He will give us the desires of our hearts. This does not mean that if we delight in God, He’ll give us everything you want. God is not some kind of cosmic Santa Claus who’s waiting to give us houses, cars, boats, horses, etc. if we could only love Him enough.

Remember the context of this psalm is of lamenting injustice and longing for justice. That’s the desire of the Psalmist’s heart, and by delighting in God our agitated and angry heart is satisfied and calmed in two ways.

Double Satisfaction
First, our heart is immediately satisfied with God’s peace. To the extent that we are able to delight in God we will enjoy the peace of God.

“I need justice!” No, you need God.

“I will be satisfied when justice is done.” No, you will be satisfied when God is your delight.

When you delight yourself in God, you will desire God more, delight in Him more, desire Him more, etc. And so begins, and never ends, the virtuous cycle.

Second, our heart is eventually satisfied with God’s justice. One truth that dominates this Psalm and results from delighting in God is absolute and total confidence that justice will prevail, that God will put wrongs right. He will protect and provide for the innocent (6, 9, 11, 18, 25-26, 28, 34),  and he will punish wrongdoers (2, 10, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 35-36). How does God do this? Four ways:

  • God may move the person to say sorry and put right the wrongs done to you.
  • God may move the church or the civil government to pursue justice for you.
  • God may work in providence to bring a person down, to repay them as they have paid others.
  • God may work in judgment, bringing the person to justice for all eternity.

Victims everywhere, delight yourself in God, and He will give you the desire of your heart.


Worldview

Should the Government Be Involved in Healthcare
I think this could be a wee bit controversial. Probably just as well no comments allowed. Christian doctor and author, Chris Bogosh reaches back to America’s founding fathers to argue that “the Affordable Care Act attempts to provide a balance to healthcare and it has four qualities Christians should welcome.”

  • It mandates a basic level of health coverage for all American citizens, which is at the heart of biblical compassion.
  • It focuses on preventive medical care, which means people will have to live more healthy lives.
  • It encourages wise planning for future medical care through instruments like living wills and other advance directives.
  • It is forcing healthcare providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and nursing homes to be more accommodating to the consumer and not their constituents.

I doubt Bogosh is arguing for wholesale acceptance of Obamacare, but any alternative proposals should try to retain any good elements that somehow found their way into this monstrosity.

Lavishing Kids with Praise Can Make Them Feel Worse About Themselves
“A new set of studies shows that for kids, high praise can have the opposite effect on self-esteem: It can actually make some children feel worse about themselves.” A study found that “when adults give excessive compliments to children with low confidence, the children were less likely to pursue challenges.”

It seems that the best way to improve kids’ self-esteem is to give them frank, straightforward praise. The only problem is, though, that parents and teachers often do the opposite. The researchers also found that adults are more likely to heap inflated praise on children with low-self esteem—presumably in a well-intentioned attempt to make them feel better.

The report calls for teachers to be trained in how to give praise effectively. A great starting point for this is Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree.

Raising Kids with An Attitude of Gratitude
Staying with kids, research has found that there a real benefits to teaching our kids to be thankful.

  • Sixth- and seventh-graders assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  • Those who showed high levels of gratitude, for instance thankfulness for the beauty of nature and strong appreciation of other people, reported having stronger GPAs, less depression and envy and a more positive outlook than less grateful teens.
  • Teens who strongly connected buying and owning things with success and happiness reported having lower GPAs, more depression and a more negative outlook. “Materialism had just the opposite effect as gratitude—almost like a mirror.”

There’s a lot of work to be done in training our kids to be grateful. “A 2013 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that tracked materialism in 355,000 high school seniors from 1976 to 2007 found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased.”

Spirituality Changes and Protects the Brain from Depression
“For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints. Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was important to them versus those who cared less about religion.”

The research is not conclusive but scientists says that there’s at least a suggestion “that religiosity can enhance the brain’s resilience against depression in a very physical way, they write.” The studies continue.

States Passed 205 Abortion Restrictions in Three Years: That’s Totally Unprecedented

Abortion Restrictions

Some reasons for this good news?

  • Republicans took control of lots of state legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections, allowing them to pass more restrictions than was politically feasible in the past.
  • The Affordable Care Act also ignited a fight over abortion policy, and many State legislatures passed laws restricting insurance coverage of abortion.
  • The focus on late-term abortion, with states following Nebraska’s lead on 20-week abortion bans,
  • That drop-off in public support for second- and third-trimester abortions could have laid the groundwork for the success of the late-term restrictions.

And we should add, ANSWERED PRAYER.


Check out

The Folly of Men Arming Women for Combat
John Piper: USA Today reports that the minimal standards for strength set by the marines are on hold because half the women in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups. They’re on hold as “part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs.”

Rescued
A beautiful story of redemption: “One day something beautiful happened. Something strange. The social workers came and got us and put our stuff in a brown paper bag and we met a different mom and dad. And they said they wanted us. Like, forever. And we could live with them and never go away. And I really liked the idea, but I didn’t know what it really meant to trust, so deep inside I didn’t believe them. Not yet. ”

The Young, Restless, and Reformed and Gospel Amnesia
Luma Sims offers her experience and wisdom to the YRR.

Carrying the Burden of the Sadness of a Loved One
Another powerful spiritual narrative from Michael Patton. His closing words: “When my dad died, the burden left. The sadness that I felt responsible to fix was taken from me. And I am beginning to think that it was much of the cause for my sadness over the last few years.”

“It’s not fair”
Yesterday, I wrote about this phrase in connection with Psalm 37. Soon after, I noticed that Dan Darling had also written on it, especially what do do when our kids say it. Later I discovered that Mark Altrogge had also written written on Psalm 37 yesterday: Fretting and Fearful For Our nation – Here’s Some Advice.

1950′s F1 Driver Stirling Moss Meets Current F1 Star Lewis Hamilton
I really enjoyed the mutual respect and affection there was between these two drivers from very different eras. Judging by the cars, I think Moss was the most courageous.


“It’s not fair!”

All of us have been victims of injustice. To one degree or another, we’ve suffered from the unfair words and actions of others. We’ve been wronged by other people and yet they’ve got off with it while we’ve suffered painful consequences. We’ve been cheated, slandered, gossiped about, mistreated, and misrepresented. We’ve lost money, reputation, promotion, relationships, even jobs. People have abused their positions, their power, their privileges, and their network to do us harm or prevent good coming to us. “It’s not fair!” and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Even the youngest child knows something of this pain. One of the first phrases we learn is, “It’s not fair!” My bike is stolen, my favorite toy is broken, my brother thumps me and no one thumps him back. “It’s not fair!” and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Deeper and Wider Pain
As we get older the pain goes deeper as we perceive favoritism in the family, suffer bullying at school, experience betrayal by friends, become victims of social media smears, and even suffer at the hands of the church and of other Christians. “It’s not fair!” and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Then we begin to learn about the great inequities in the world; the perks and privileges of the rich and powerful, the sufferings and sorrows of the weak and the oppressed. We see it to some degree in our own country; we especially see it in other countries like North Korea, the Sudan, Congo, etc. “It’s not fair!” and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Dwelling on Injustice
If we allow our hearts and minds to dwell on these personal, social, ecclesiastical, and international injustices, we will spend our lives in a state of constant and damaging agitation: fretfulness, anxiety, bitterness, anger, and so on, will be our constant and damaging companions. Our minds will darken, our hearts will despair, and our bodies will deteriorate too.

“It’s not fair” BUT there is something we can do about it. In fact, there are a few things.

1. Don’t inflict injustice upon anyone. Consider the effects, the impact, the damage, and the destruction of injustice by reading, feeling, and singing Psalm 37. Before you even think about abusing your power, taking advantage of someone, wronging a person, ponder the long-term consequences for them.

2. Confess and put right injustices. Is there anyone who is singing Psalm 37 because of you today? Go to them, say sorry, put it right, and deliver them from their painful plight.

3. Recognize the impact of injustice upon yourself. There are no medals for downplaying or denying how injustice has impacted you. In Psalm 37, David reveals the effects of injustice upon himself by what he commands himself and others not to think and feel: he frets (1), he envies (1), he doubts God (2), he’s agitated (7), he’s impatient (7), he thinks they are getting away with it (7), he’s furious (8), he questions if they will ever face justice (9), he feels threatened (14), he fears for the future (19), he’s tempted to sin (27), etc.

This is deep, wide and long. Deep, in that it goes into the depths of our being; wide, in that it affects us in every dimension – spiritual, mental, physical, social, etc; long, in that it lasts for months and years. No point in bottling this up until we explode or disintegrate.

4. Bring it to God. You cannot carry this yourself. It is too heavy, too hard, too difficult. Follow the pattern of Psalm 37 where the Psalmist unbottles his feelings and spills them out before the Lord. Tell Him it as it is. Hand it over to Him. And remember, as the victim of the greatest injustice ever perpetrated, He understands and feels your screams. He can sympathize with you and support you through this agony.


Worldview

Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault.
Microsoft’s Danah Boyd has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives. The result is a books It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens and its conclusion is that parents are to blame for the unsociability of their teens.

Specifically, that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”

Factors that have “imprisoned” our teens include the media’s over-publicizing of rare child-abduction cases, sensationalized reporting of youth gangs, anti-loitering laws, fewer public spaces, and  increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids’ after-school lives.

The result, Boyd discovered, is that today’s teens have neither the time nor the freedom to hang out. So their avid migration to social media is a rational response to a crazy situation. They’d rather socialize F2F, so long as it’s unstructured and away from grown-ups.

Charles Blow’s Self-Defeating Column Against Christianity
Brilliant analysis by Denny Burk of Charles Blow’s NYT piece Indoctrinating Religious Warriors. Here’s an extract:

There is so much wrong with Blow’s article that it’s difficult to know where to start. But perhaps I should point out the fundamental self-defeating contradiction at the heart of it. Blow argues that the “war” on Christians is a lie. There really isn’t any threat at all for Christians to be concerned about. Then he spends the rest of his article in a sustained assault on Christianity. He castigates Christians ignorant enough to believe that God created the world apart from evolutionary processes. He looks down his nose at Christians who are so unenlightened as to believe what the Bible teaches about marriage….In other words, Blow has no problem with Christianity as long as it never contradicts the spirit of the age and never makes claims of any public consequence—which is another way of saying, “I have no problem with Christianity so long as it ceases to be Christian.”

What Drives us to Do the Right Thing?
In Romans 7:8-10, the Apostle Paul describes the paradox of laws against sin actually producing sin. He basically says that before hearing laws against sin, he didn;t want to  sin, but when he heard “Don’t/Do that or else,” sin was stirred up and multiplied. “The law came, sin revived, and I died.”

Now we have modern research that confirms and illustrates this weird and twisted aspect of human nature.

Example 1: A handful of parents are habitually late to pick up their kids from pre-school. The school sends out a note, urging timeliness: “Please be considerate of our wonderful staff who, after a long day of caring for your kids, are tired and want to go home,” etc.

This works with some parents, but there are still chronic offenders. The school finally becomes punitive. Parents who are late start getting a fine added to the tuition bill. What happens? Against all seeming logic, the incidence of tardiness increases.

Example 2: Faculty do certain chores spontaneously because they are good departmental citizens. Some do lots, others are slackers, but things get done. Then an administrator pronounces that this voluntary act is now required X times a year. The slackers that had been doing less than X now do the required X. But those who used to do more than X shift to X as well.

These paradoxical effects occur because introducing punishment re-categorizes the behavior…It turns out that doing the right thing voluntarily is very different from doing it to avoid punishment.

Why are Working-Class Men Falling Behind?
After many years of studying American society, Michael Jindra, visiting research scholar in theCenter for the Study of Religion and Society has concluded that “American lifestyles are increasingly diverging between ‘hyper-achievers’ trained early on to succeed, and those often labeled ‘slackers’ whose lives revolve around entertainments of various sorts.

  • A disproportionate percentage of “slackers” are working class men who are working less and earning less.
  • These men are increasingly disconnected from families and from society as a whole.
  • Early on they fall behind females in school and never catch up.
  • One explanation for their instability is that so many were raised with single parents and are unlikely to reap the gains of a lasting marriage themselves.
  • Video games create a need for stimulation, crowd out reading, and lessen boys’ focus in school and other activities.
  • Rates of ADHD have skyrocketed with video-game overstimulation playing a role.
  • These patterns can also lead later in life to heavy television viewing, often of sports and heavy online activity, such as viewing porn.

Jindra concludes: “All of these things mentioned above—early reliance on stimulating entertainment, lower educational attainment, disconnection from families and role models, and the attractions of different, “edgy” subcultures—contribute to a widening gulf between those more connected to family, work, and society, and those without these commitments.”

Something that Jindra didn’t mention was the way in which manual labor has been so ridiculed and relegated by the incessant desire to get everyone to college. The Government, the media, and our school teachers have made college the be-all and end-all of life. Little wonder that many young men who have immense practical or small-business gifts are demoralized and discouraged by the present school system that devalues their unique talents and rewards only academic ability.