Friday, August 28, 2009

Competition to the Glory of God?

In his superb book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges has a chapter called "Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins." Out of this chapter a section on competition emerges where he states:

"Let me clarify that I'm not writing against friendly competition but against the competitive spirit that always has to win or be the best. Actually, I believe that healthy competition is good, especially for children and high schoolers, as it can provide an arena in which they can seek to do their best. And this kind of competition is not limited to sports. There is competition at science fairs or among bands or at spelling bees. But in whatever competition, the question the child or teenager and their parents should ask is not 'Did we win?' but 'Did we do our best?'"

Sounds nice but let's be honest, when your son competes on the soccer field you want him to kick the game-winning goal, and when you enter your prize tomato or quilt at the fair, you want to take home the huge, purple ribbon. Right? Talk of 'doing our best' sounds nice, but down deep do we really believe that? Bridges goes on to write:

"Competitiveness is basically an expression of selfishness. It's the urge to win at someone else's expense. It is certainly not loving our neighbor as ourselves. I realize I'm questioning a 'sacred cow' in our culture, because we have elevated competitiveness to a virtue. We teach children directly or by example that it is good to be competitive, that this is the way one gets ahead in the world. I question, however, whether a competitive spirit is a Christian virtue." (pp. 153-155)

At the same time, in Romans 12:10, in an instance of profound irony, Paul seems to link love with competition when he writes, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Here God seems to command a holy competitiveness - but one limited to bearing the fruit of the Spirit toward the goal of blessing and serving others, rather than triumphing over them.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Desires Reveal Our God(s)

“The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him: the more he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so much remaining love to it: the more he mourns for sin, the more his heart is broke, the more he desires it should be broke: the more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God: the kindling and raising of gracious affections is like kindling a flame; the higher it is raised, the more ardent it is; and the more it burns, the more vehemently does it tend and seek to burn.”

- Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections in Works, Vol. I, p. 312.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Jonathan Edwards Heart Check

“The Scripture knows of no such true Christians, as of a sordid, selfish, cross and contentious spirit. Nothing can be invented that is a greater absurdity, than a morose, hard, close, high-spirited, spiteful true Christian.”

- Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections in Works, Vol. I, 307.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fighting relational sin

At its core, sin is relational in nature. As a means of loving God, we want to love our spouses, our kids, our co-workers and others well, but before we know it, we've said or done something that wounds them all over again. What's the answer to our battle to love others well? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

Our daily battle to love others well by walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh is captured poignantly by John Michael Talbot in his beautiful song "Nature and Grace" - the words he uses to describe "Flesh and Spirit". Read his lyrics carefully as you think about how you've been talking to and treating the people in your life today.

Nature and Grace

Deep within me, there lies a true distinction
Between the things I would and what I really do.
I cannot believe I am so unusual.
Isn’t this the common sorrow within me and you?

Nature will seek only its own advantage.
It considers only how another might be used.
But grace will breed a new humility
To comfort those afflicted and to help those once abused.

Chorus: Nature might seek its fair consolation.
But it never offers its help without its price, without reward.
Grace finds reward in another’s consolation
Learning in this paradox the power of our Lord.

And nature will seek to be exalted in authority
To argue its opinion and have all the world conform.
But grace humbly comes in a silent assuredness
Speaking only to conform a man to his Lord.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Randy Alcorn recently wrote about watching television on his blog. Below are some guidelines he has written to help in our discernment. You can read the explanations to each point HERE.

1. Keep track of how much time you spend watching.

2. Decide in advance how much TV to watch per week.

3. Use a schedule to choose programs for the week--then stick to your choices.

4. Keep your television unplugged, store it in a closet, and/or put it in a remote part of the house (prevents mindless flip-on).

5. Periodically "fast" from television for a week or a month. Notice the "cold turkey" effects. (Avoids addiction, reminds you of all that can be done when TV off).

6. Choose programs that uplift rather than undermine biblical values.

7. Use the "off" switch freely. If it's wrong and you keep watching, you're saying "I approve." (Unless it doesn't present temptation and you're critically analyzing it).

8. Use the channel changer frequently.

9. Watch and discuss programs together as a family--to avoid passivity and develop active moral discernment through interaction. (Avoid the second TV set that splits the family and leaves children unsupervised).

10. Don't allow young children to choose their own programs--that's the parent's responsibility.

11. Don't use television as a baby sitter.

12. Spend an hour reading Scripture, a Christian book or magazine, or doing a ministry for each hour you watch TV.

13. Consider dropping cable, Showtime, HBO, or any other service that you determine is importing ungodliness or temptation into your home.

14. If you find you can't control it--or you're tired of the battle--get rid of your television.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sons & Daughters - Songs of Adoption

The fine musicians at Sovereign Grace Music have released a new album called Sons & Daughters.

The songs on this album are meant to direct our attention to the unfathomable love God has shown us in adopting us through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). We are now part of God’s family - in Christ we will forever be the objects of God’s particular and passionate mercy and love. That biblical reality, rather than leaving us focused on ourselves, drives us once again to proclaim the greatness of the God whose grace turns hopeless rebels into the precious children.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6)

Purchase the CD HERE ($12) or purchase an MP3 download of the album HERE ($9).