Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The perils of protesting

One of the blessings of our republic is our freedom to demonstrate in protest when we disagree with a given governmental direction or decision. Right now such demonstrations are taking place around the world in nations like Libya, but they're also taking place in the city of my college alma mater, Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know enough about public employee collective bargaining laws to comment intelligently on the protests in Madison. The protests may be legitimate.

At the same time, being a university town, Madison lends itself to protests. As a student there I'll never forget one Saturday being surrounded by a mass of conservative humanity as we swelled State Street and made our way to the state Capitol building where we demonstrated against Roe vs. Wade. It was heady stuff being a part of a 'cause' complete with cheers, songs and signs. There is a place for peaceful protest, and I'm glad of it. At the same time, as writer Paul Tripp makes clear in the following quote, protests often imperil a clear view of God, self and others.

"Did you ever wonder why protests are so attractive to a human being? When I participate in a protest over some issue, I am able to say that this particular problem somehow exists outside of me. And since I am not the problem here, I get to point the finger at you, publicly exposing your wrongs that are affecting me and others. What makes protesting so exhilarating and intoxicating is being righteous. For once I get to say, 'I am innocent here, and frankly outraged at the wrong that you are doing!' If you invited people to two events, one to protest something and the other to confess some [sin], which gathering do you think would draw the bigger crowd?"

- Paul Tripp, A Quest for More, p. 156

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trueman on Gaga

"Despising the modern pop scene, and having more important things to do on Sunday evening, I did not see the Grammys, though I was struck yesterday when I saw a clip of this ghastly Lady Gaga person being carried on to stage in one of those plastic pods that were apparently left over from the set of This is Spinal Tap. I laughed at the latter; indeed, I laughed at the former -- until the portentous arty commentary indicated that LG was making an artistic statement.

Yet vacuous pop stars are soft targets when it comes to mocking the theologising of self-importance. They look and sound ridiculous because we can all hear what they say, see what they wear, and smirk at their assumption that, because they can entertain, what they have to say about everything is somehow important, unique, and, indeed, coherent. My guess, however, is that more than a few of us in the church also fall for the `God has a special purpose for my life' line. This is often simply a way of saying `I believe myself to be uniquely important and indispensable.'

Actually, we are not; none of us are. There is always somebody else who could do our jobs better; and let us not kid ourselves -- there is probably somebody else who could have married our spouse and made them just as happy, if not more so. God's love for us is exceptional, not because we are unique, but because we are not so; not because he needs us; but because he does not need us at all."

- Carl Trueman on Ref 21

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcoming Michael

This coming Sunday we'll have the priviledge of hearing from and spending time with our missionary in Toulouse, France, Michael Gibbons. It's an exciting time to be planting churches in western Europe! More than ever before, European cities are being inundated by immigrants from all parts of the globe, creating transition points which God often uses to compel people to consider who they, why they exist and Who made them. The Gibbons have been building a truly international team of workers to reach out to the masses streaming to Toulouse, which is the fastest growing city in Europe. Not only that, Toulouse is host to nearlyl 200,000 university students - a seedbed for evangelism and church planting. It's an exciting time to be doing ministry in western Europe.

But it's also a challenging time. Much of western Europe is stridently atheistic and suspicious of organized religion. The EU is rife with debt and the tax burden of western European welfare states is beginning to catch up with them. Toulouse is a very expensive place to live. It's a challenging time to be doing ministry in western Europe.

All this means that we have reason to rejoice with Micheal and pray with and for him. Please join me in asking God not only to prepare his heart and ours as he comes to speak to us on Sunday. Ask God to do in Toulouse 'abundantly beyond all we can think or imagine' (Eph. 3:20) as the Spirit uses friends like the Gibbons to extend Christ's Kingdom farther and deeper to His glory.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

True understanding

Over the years Trinity Church has become known as a place where rigorous thinking is encouraged. We don't want to follow the path of anti-intellectualism which marked certain segments of the American church during the 20th century. God gave us good minds to be stretched by His truth for His glory. The pursuit of understanding matters to Christ.

That is all true, and yet I was struck this morning by some things Moses said to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4 before they passed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There he defines for us what true understanding is - or, perhaps more accurately, he describes the necessary effect of true understanding.

"See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'" (Deuteronomy 4:5-6)

We will be known as God's 'wise and understanding people' not chiefly by what we know, but by what we do, that is, how we apply what we know. Wisdom and understanding only honors God and marks us as His people if it translates into holy, joyful, God-honoring obedience.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Toxic parenting

On his Blazing Center blog, Stephen Altrogge posted some helpful advice today on parenting. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." According to Stephen, here are 16 ways we often provoke our children sinfully which we need grace to avoid:

We can provoke our children to anger:

- By constantly criticizing them and not encouraging them. When they feel they can never please us enough.
- By having double standards. Expecting them to do things we don’t do, e.g. ask forgiveness, humble themselves, etc.
- By anger and harshness
- By a lack of affection
- By telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons (e.g., Do it because I said to do it, or because it’s just wrong).
- By being offended at their sin because it bothers us, not because it offends God.
- By comparing them to others (Why can’t you act like your sister?)
- By hypocrisy – acting like a Christian at church but not at home
- By embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in front of others)
- By always lecturing them and never listening to them
- By disciplining them for childishness or weakness, not for sin
- By failing to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them
- By pride – failing to receive humble correction from our spouses or our children when we sin.
- By self-centered reactions to their sin (How could you do this to ME?)
- By ungracious reactions to their sin (What were you thinking? Why in the world would you do that?)
- By forgetting that we were (and are) sinners (I would NEVER have done that when I was your age).

May God give us gracious, gentle, humble, affectionate hearts toward our children.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shrink-wrapped by sin?

"What's wrong with me?" I asked my wife as I lay down to sleep after a day of grouchy-demandingness. The challenges of the day had exposed the idolatrous loves of my heart in ugly ways. What was wrong with me? Most fundamentally, what was wrong was the disease called 'self-deification'. King Jesus isn't good enough for me. I wanted to be king.
In his recent book, A Quest for More, Paul Tripp takes us on a biblically-guided tour of our self-deifying hearts and gives us the ammunition needed to fight our self-enthroning compulsions so that Jesus alone can take His rightful place on the throne in our lives. Here's a taste from the banquet table Paul spreads for us as he spells out just how fundamentally the Fall has warped our original relational orientation:
"Sin causes fundamental changes in the 'molecules' of my heart. No longer is my heart driven by a deep-seated love for God. No longer is my heart motivated by a genuine care for others. No longer do I carry around a sense of responsibility for the surrounding, created world. No longer is every decision I make shaped by a clear sense of what is morally right and morally wrong. No longer is everything I do shaped by joyful and thankful worship. The DNA of sin is selfishness, and it shrinks the size of my universe to the size of one. Sin creates the ultimate shrink dynamic. It causes all of us in some way to shrink our lives to the size of our lives. Sin shrinks my motivation, zeal, desire, care and concern to the contours of my life. In the shrunken kingdom of self, there is no functional room for God or others. It is humbling, but spiritually essential, to admit that sin has shrink-wrapped us all." (p. 86)
In your quest to let Jesus be Lord of your life, this book can help greatly.