Monthly Archives: January 2013

God’s Greatest Adversaries Are His Gifts

idolatryThe greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and pota- toes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

John Piper, Hunger for God14-15.

Image Credit: Crossway

HT: Ryan Loveing (Life Action Ministries)

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Filed under Anthropology, Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Thinking, Counseling, God, Holiness, Idolatry, Sin, Theology, Worship

The Word Become Flesh: The Secret of the Psalter

psalmsThe Psalter occupies a unique place in all the Holy Scriptures. It is God’s Word, and with few exceptions it is at the same time the prayer of human beings.  How are we to understand this?  How can God’s Word be at the same time prayer to God?  This question is followed by an observation made by all who begin to pray the Psalms.  First, they try to repeat the Psalms personally as their own prayer.  But soon they come across passages that they feel they cannot pray as their own personal prayers.  We remember, for example, the psalms of innocence, the psalms of vengeance, and also, in part, the psalms of suffering.  Nevertheless, these prayers are words of the Holy Scriptures that believing Christians cannot simply dismiss as obsolete and antiquated.  Thus they do not desire to gain control over the word of Scripture, and yet they realize that they cannot pray these words.  They can read them as the prayer of another person, wonder about them, be offended by them, but they can neither pray them themselves nor expunge them from the Holy Scriptures…. [T]his difficulty actually indicates the point at which we may get our first glimpse of the secret of the Psalter.  The psalms that will not cross our lips as prayers, those that make us falter and offend us, make us suspect that here someone else is praying, not we – that the one who is here affirming his innocence, who is calling God’s judgment, who has come to such infinite depths of suffering, is none other than Jesus Christ himself.  It is he who is praying here, and not only here, but in the whole Psalter.  The New Testament and the church have always recognized and testified to his truth.  The human Jesus Christ to whom no affliction, no illness, no suffering is unknown, and who yet was the wholly innocent and righteous one, is praying in the Psalter through the mouth of his congregation.  The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus in the truest sense of the word.  He prayed the Psalter, and now it has become his prayer for all time.  Can we now comprehend how the Psalter is capable of being simultaneously prayer to God and yet God’s own Word, precisely because the praying Christ encounters us here?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45), Life Together, 53-55.

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Lead Them Down the Old Roads

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Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

– Psalm 78:1-4

Parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and every believer – you have been called forth from and to follow the old truths, the ancient wisdom, the Word of God.  But even more than that, you are called to lead the following generations down those same roads.  Eternity is at stake.  Faithfulness to the gospel to which you were called is on the line.  The hearts of your children and those around you, your grandchildren, and of generations to come need to hear the wonderful words of hope, love, and redemption.  The psalmist proclaims the result of this:

He established a testimony in Jacob

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments;

and that they should not be like their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God. (v 5-8)

Your children and those generations to come will follow something: will it be the the old roads of God’s faithful story leading to glory, or will we allow them to go their own way, the world’s way, leading them to destruction?

HT: Tim Challies

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Parents: See that Your Eye Be Single

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“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

We may suppose your sons have now been long enough at school, and you are thinking of some business for them. Before you determine anything on this head, see that your eye be single. Is it so? Is it your view to please God herein? It is well if you take him into your account! But surely, if you live or fear God yourself, this will be your first consideration, — “In what business will your son be most likely to love and serve God? In what employment will he have the greatest advantage for laying up treasure in heaven?” I have been shocked above measure in observing how little this is attended to, even by pious parents! Even these consider only how he may get most money; not how he may get most holiness! Even these, upon this glorious motive, send him to a heathen master, and into family where there is not the very form, much less the power of religion! Upon this motive they fix him in a business which will necessarily expose him to such temptations as will leave him not a probability, if a possibility, of serving God. O savage parents! Unnatural, diabolical cruelty. — if you believe there is another world.

“But what shall I do?” Set God before your eyes, and do all things with a view to please him. Then you will find a master, of whatever profession, that loves, or at least fears, God; and you will find a family wherein is the form of religion, if not the power also. Your son may nevertheless serve the devil if he will; but it is probable he will not. And do not regard, if he get less money, provided he get more holiness. It is enough, though he have less of earthly goods, if he secure the possession of heaven.

John Wesley (1703-91), On Family Religion

*Image credit: Ligonier Ministries

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The Greatest Good in Married Life: Raising Kids to Know & Serve God

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Therefore God has also most richly blessed this estate above all others, and, in addition has bestowed on it andwrapped up in it everything in the world, to the end that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life is therefore no jest or presumption; but it is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For it is of the highest importance to Him that persons be raised who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), The Large Catechism

But the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labour worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls. Now since we are all duty bound to suffer death, if need be, that we might bring a single soul to God, you can see how rich the estate of marriage is in good works. God has entrusted to its bosom souls begotten of its own body, on whom it can lavish all manner of Christian works. Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal. whoever teaches the gospel to another is truly his apostle and bishop. Mitre and staff and great estates indeed produce idols, but teaching the gospel produces apostles and bishops. See therefore how good and great is God’s work and ordinance!

Luther, Sermon on Married Life

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