Posted by: Art | September 29, 2014

Time, Times and… Just Enough Time

Almost simultaneously, the following three items came on my radar earlier today on the theme of time and its preciousness in our finite and fleeting lives:

1) NYTimes Sunday Magazine article on a new start-up shipping service:

How do we judge whether technology is making us more productive, or just lazy and impatient? Economists think about outsourcing chores in terms of opportunity costs. If you can work during the hour you would have spent mailing a package, it would probably be a better use of your time — as, perhaps, would taking a nap, going for a run or spending time with your child.

[Or perhaps reading your Bible or reaching out with the gospel to someone who does not yet know Christ. Opportunity ‘cost’ looks very different within the Christian worldview vs. the world’s system.]

“People underestimate the value of time,” said Susan Athey, an economics of technology professor at Stanford University’s business school.. The trade-off between time and money is particularly crucial for those with less of each.

2) Charles Spurgeon (from Morning devotional for July 30th):

“When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been, we may weep whole showers of grief.”

3) Tim Challies reflects on time:

…doing takes time, and time is a fleeting resource. It is a finite resource. When I use time in one way, I cannot use it in another. When I give time to one thing, I take away from something else. To prioritize one area of life is to de-prioritize all the rest… Life is a vapor, too short, too fleeting. But I believe this: I may not have time to do everything I would like to do, but I have all the time I need for those things that God expects me to do… The call, then, is to find the best things I can do with the time allotted to me, while waiting for the great day when time will no longer be finite… It is to obey the words of God: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Which made me think of this one also:

PSALM 90:10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.

Posted by: Art | September 25, 2014

Good Works, Dead Works, Mighty Works

TITUS 2:13 …our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 …gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for GOOD works.

Our good works, as Christians, must exist in the context of:

  • Redemption. We were bought at a price. We are not our own anymore. (1st Cor 6:20, 7:23)
  • Repentance. We are to turn away from all lawlessness. We are not to dabble, mix in, or otherwise toy around with a little lawlessness on the side. (Matt 4:17, e.g.)
  • Purity. We are to seek the holiness of Christ. We must be active participants in our own sanctification, even as it is ultimately God’s work in us even to want to. (Phil 2:12-13, e.g.)
  • Obedience and Loyalty. We are His possession. Divided loyalty is no loyalty at all. (Matt 6:24, e.g.)
  • Zeal. Doing the will of God is a 24/7 life-devotion springing from the new birth. It is not a course to take once and pass or a ritual obligation to endure periodically. (John 3:3, Deut 6:5, Rom 12:2, e.g.)
  • Reverence/Fear. Only God is truly good. Our ideas of ‘good’ are marred by sin, especially pride. (Mark 10:18, e.g.)
  • Gratitude. Christ took our place on the cross. Works which are truly good (that is, good in God’s eyes) must necessarily spring from a heart filled with thanks and joy for that unfathomably amazing love–a love no one could never possibly earn. (1st Thess 5:18, e.g.)

Christian good works may not be regarded as such by the world. In similar fashion, what the world regards as objectively ‘good’ works may or may not be so in God’s eyes, depending upon the heart which gave rise to them.

HEBREWS 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from DEAD works to serve the living God.

Because of Christ’s self-sacrifice on our behalf, we are freed from the nagging but ultimately futile impulse of all fallen mankind to try and earn our own salvation–an impossible task (and conceit). Our works in that vein are ‘dead’ because they proceed from death (a sinful denial of Christ’s sufficiency, however subtle such denial may be) and to death (pride in our own self-righteousness, digging the hole even deeper, as it were).

Only by serving the living God (following Him wholeheartedly–something we could not do without His Holy Spirit in re-birth) can our works be made good, conforming to His will, springing from a humble and thankful heart, keeping the cross and our need in full view.

All of which helps to explain/unlock…

MATTHEW 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many MIGHTY works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The emphasis, in the plea of the many who say, ‘Lord, Lord’ (literally, taking His name in vain, i.e., without cross-justification, or new-birth effect) is first on self-justification (‘did we not…’), and second on power (the ‘mightiness’ of the works being of foremost concern to these individuals; see Gen 6:4, 10:8-9 & Psalm 52:1, e.g.).

The goodness of the works–their conformance with God’s will–may be on the list of concerns for these vain pleaders… a bit further down. We can’t say. All we do know is that Jesus chose to emphasize, regarding these many, that obedience to God’s definition of goodness (i.e., trust in the Word Who became flesh) is not at the top of their list.

Posted by: Art | September 9, 2014

Pluck it out and cast it from thee…

Genesis 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

Tim Challies weighs-in on a particular incident that highlights the spirit of porn, and the utter impossibility of setting gradations within the spectrum of what is, at its core, evil:

The very fact that these women took these photographs in the first place is proof that they are victims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I assume they were all willing participants in these photo shoots, but they were victims even in their willingness—victims of those forces that makes them believe they are nothing more than their beauty, their sexiness, or their sexual desirability. They are victims of the lust that drove them to inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. When we understand sin, we understand that a person can be a willing participant and victim at the same time and in the same act.

His comment is just as applicable, IMHO, to a constellation of other eye-pleasing but dead and rotting things in which our culture routinely invests its time, money and attention, presuming upon God’s grace, pridefully imagining that human beings are capable of handling just a little evil by our own power.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

John 8:3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

———

RELATED: Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives: The horror I witnessed inside the women’s ‘liberation’ movement, by Mallory Millett, sister of uber-feminist leader Kate Millett.

Thus, the females, who are fundamentally the arbiters of society go on to harden their young men with such pillow-talk in the same way they’ve been hardened because, “Wow, man, I’ve gotta get laid and she won’t do it if I don’t agree to let her kill the kid if she gets knocked-up!” Oppressed? Woman has always had power. Consider the eternal paradigm: only after Eve convinced Adam to eat the fruit did mankind fall. I.e., man does anything to make woman happy, even if it’s in defiance of God. There’s power for ya! Without a decent womankind, mankind is lost. As Mae West said, “When women go wrong men go right after them!”

I’ve known women who fell for this creed in their youth who now, in their fifties and sixties, cry themselves to sleep decades of countless nights grieving for the children they’ll never have and the ones they coldly murdered because they were protecting the empty loveless futures they now live with no way of going back. “Where are my children? Where are my grandchildren?” they cry to me.

Posted by: Art | August 13, 2014

Why We Hate God

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.'”

——-

Note this remarkable insight within a remarkable, classic book (‘Standing on the Rock: Upholding Biblical Authority in a Secular Age,’ by the late James Montgomery Boice). Quoting from page 117 of the paperback edition:

“Crucifixion is the response of the unsaved human heart to God’s sovereignty: I want to do things the way I want to do them, and I will not acknowledge God’s right to interfere. Yet, sovereignty is one of the first things we are taught in Scripture concerning God’s character. He is the sovereign God, and he is sovereign whether we acknowledge it or not.

We must also be taught about God’s holiness and omniscience because we do not like those either. If God is holy, it means we are not holy. If God is the standard for measuring our morality, our morality looks very dirty. Since nobody wants to look morally dirty, we hate God for his holiness. We hate God for his omniscience, too. Omniscience means God knows everything, but we do not want to be known. We want people to know us a little, but we resist letting ourselves be known in a deep way”

——-

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”

 

Posted by: Art | April 20, 2014

The True Church

Saved by a Community for Community, by David Lookabill

We live in a world that’s becoming more and more connected. From Facebook to Twitter to texting, we are “closer” to each other than ever before. Smartphones and social networking provide instantaneous access… But the dangerous irony is that this connectedness has also made us more isolated than ever before…

(After years of immersing myself in this world, and making many good friends here, I would add blogs and comment threads to his list of useful-but-dangerous substitutes for the true, the local body of Christ.)

This troubling reality has infiltrated the church, too. But like fish who have been swimming in the waters of individualism for too long, we barely even notice it. It’s so easy to treat the church like a club where we show up once a week, get what we want, and then leave for lunch without reaching out to anyone.

We need other believers to draw us back into the fold when we’ve gone astray. Other believers need us to encourage and spur them on (Heb. 10:24). If we examine all the orders we’re given in the New Testament, “one another” commands dominate the pages (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 5:11). Living in the community of the local church, then, is necessary—not optional—for your growth in grace. We simply cannot obey “one another” commands if we’re not around, well, one another.

The outside world needs to see this, too—a community of people living out Jesus’ commands despite their vastly different personalities, music preferences, backgrounds, skin colors, economic statuses, and even football allegiances.

For all we hear about the need for unity in diversity in our culture, the world divides over all sorts of issues…

Yet in the Trinity we see immaculate unity in diversity. God exists as one being in three persons, each with a distinct role in redemption. And his church, too, ought to reflect this glorious unity in diversity: red, yellow, black, and white; rich, poor, and middle class; old and young, cool and uncool—all united under the blood-bought banner of our common King.

The world around us longs for community, and the false sense of connectedness created by Twitter and Facebook [AND BLOGS and e-mails and comment threads] won’t fill the void. We need robust, life-on-life, in-the-trenches community. God didn’t merely “text us,” after all. He came. He walked with us, wept with us, rejoiced with us, and loved us in spite of ourselves. If we’re embodying this self-giving posture in our churches, then, it’ll draw the lonely world to us like a magnet. If this isn’t the reality you experience at church, though, you’re not alone.

The local church is messy. We’ve all experienced hurt and disappointment in it. And the head of the church understands, for he knows better than anyone the costliness of living in community. He entered this messy and broken world, and it killed him.

For us to embrace real community will entail crucifixion, too. It’ll mean dying to our desires, our preferences, our expectations. But on the other side of crucifixion, there’s resurrection. We die to self now in order to enjoy true life forever (Matt. 16:25).

So let’s radically love the brother in Sunday school who drives us crazy. Let’s invite into our homes the awkward sister no one else approaches. Let’s walk into the sanctuary seeking to engage the visitor in conversation. Let’s go beyond sports and weather and politics to discuss how the gospel intersects with our lives, our marriages, our families. The more this interaction happens in our churches, the more we will be drawn into the lavish love of the triune God.

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