The Weekly Roundup

Here are some links for your viewing pleasure:

Grace Is Not Earned – Bob Kauflin gives away some free music from artist Kate Simmonds.

Cautions for Mere Christianity – I’m a big C.S. Lewis fan. Kevin DeYoung offers some wise cautions in regards to Lewis’ book Mere Christianity.

Discover New Music With “MySpoonful” – I love finding new music, and the website MySpoonful seems like a pretty cool way to find music.

The World’s Muslim Population Doubles – This article from Time is a sobering reminder that the world’s population could be up to 25% Muslim by 2030. Let’s pray for God’s kingdom to come.

Aiming High, Missing Low, Aiming High Again – Tony Reinke mines the wisdom of John Newton discussing our failures as Christians.

Man Passes Out On Jeopardy – This is just plain funny.

Making Sense of King David’s Polygamy

King David seems like a mystery at times.

At least to me he does. On the one hand, he is a man after God’s own heart. He was the “Lord is my shepherd” guy. God was so pleased with David that he made an everlasting covenant with him, promising him that one of his descendants would be on the throne forever. Spiritually speaking, David had everything going for him.

On the other hand, David had some pretty nasty flaws. He seduced Bathsheba and murdered Uriah. He would have killed Nabal if Nabal’s wife, Abigail hadn’t stepped in. Then, after Nabal died David decided to marry Abigail. Which seems like a happy ending until you remember that David already had a wife. By the end of his life David actually had several wives.

So what’s the deal? Why did God allow David to have multiple wives? Why didn’t God punish David for his polygamy? Did God approve of David’s polygamy? These kind of questions can make the Old Testament seem really confusing.

In his book, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Paul Copan makes a very helpful point in this regard. He says:

…the Biblical authors often don’t comment on such actions [such as polygamy] because (at least in part) they assume that they don’t need to. In other words, is doesn’t mean ought; the way biblical characters happen to act isn’t necessarily an endorsement of their behavior.

In other words, just because it is in the Bible doesn’t mean that it’s good. In Genesis 1-2 we see God’s ideal: a marriage between one man and one woman. In Deuteronomy 17:17, God says to the future kings of Israel: “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” God never intended a king, or anyone else for that matter, to have multiple wives.

The reality, however, is that God patiently works with sinful men and women who live in a sinful world. God stoops to our level and works with us in spite of our flaws. David was king during a time when there would have been pressure to make marriage for political reasons. Did God approve of this? No, but he worked within the framework of David’s world and he extended grace to David.

On a side note, it is interesting to note that every time multiple marriages happen in scripture, strife occurred. God didn’t necessarily punish polygamy, but he didn’t bless it either. God’s grace works in mysterious ways.

I’m grateful we serve a God of grace. I’m sure that hundreds of years from now people will look back on the church and see many obvious flaws and much obvious fruit. Because God is gracious, and he meets us where we are.

How to Become Correction Free

Don’t you hate to be corrected?

Don’t you hate it when someone says, “Do you mind if I share an observation for you?”  Don’t you just want to reply, “YES, I DO mind.  Now please go back to Observationville and I’ll call you when start to run low on observations.”

One of the worst things about being corrected is the way your face feels. You want to smile and look “receptive,” open and humble, yet your face essentially feels like it’s made out of Plaster of Paris and is about to crack into a thousand pieces.  On the outside your face says, “Yes, I can see what you’re saying.  Hmmm.  No, I didn’t realize that every time I open my mouth you feel like I’m tazering you.  Thank you so much for sharing this with me.”  But inside you are saying to yourself, “Don’t cry.  Don’t cry.  Don’t cry.”

So here are some suggestions for how to receive correction.

First, take a lesson from the CIA, whose motto is “Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.” The minute someone begins to correct you, even before they’ve finished their first sentence, launch your offensive: “Why are you always attacking me and tearing me down?  Why can’t you support me for once?  Aren’t there enough dogs in the street that you have to start kicking me?”  Do this at least 23 decibels louder than you normally speak.

This should take your would-be “observer” off guard.  They may be speechless for a moment, which will give you the opportunity to launch your second fusillade: the guilt trip.  “After all I’ve done for you, this is the thanks I get?  Whatever happened to encouragement?  You know the last time you encouraged me?  In the Truman administration!  Why do I even bother trying to do anything nice for anyone if this is what’s going to happen to me?”

Now they may gently point out they haven’t actually even said anything to you yet.  Don’t be put off by this.  Launch stage 3: Play the ‘Woe is me’ card.  “I’m sorry for snapping like that.  It’s just that I’ve been under so much stress lately.  My pet lizard, ‘Lucky,’  died last week and all the crickets I’d fed him got out of his cage and my whole house became infested and the city came and condemned it.  They accused me of being a hoarder, just because I like to collect things.  On top of that, I had to get rid of my 32 cats.  It’s just been terrible.  I don’t think I can take any more.”

If your observer hasn’t left yet, launch stage 4: The downcast listener.  “Ok, give me your observation.  I need to be teachable. Tell me how bad I am.  Tell me what a loser I am.  I need to hear it.  It’s good for me.  Just let me grab some kleenex first.”  Then look at them with sad watery eyes. Sniff and wipe your nose.

If at this point, they still have gumption to actually give you an observation, repeat tactic 1:  “Oh, right – I’M insensitive. Well what about last Sunday when you snubbed me at the coffee bar?  What? You didn’t see me because of how crowded it was? Talk about insensitive!  If you didn’t see me, why weren’t you concerned?  Oh right.  You were reaching out to a guest.  Well, I guess I just have to try to be more sensitive to YOU, Mr. Outreach.”

Get the idea?  It’s not that hard.  Put these simple techniques into practice and soon you’ll be correction free like I am.

photo by roberthuffstutter

God Can Work With A Spark

A little grace, a spark of true love to God, a grain of living faith, though small as mustard-seed, is worth a thousand worlds. –Newton

The tiniest signs of true grace in others and ourselves should greatly encourage us.  The faintests whisps of smoke from a flickering flame are cause for us to hope for a blaze to come.

God begins his work in our lives by planting the seed of the gospel, joining it to faith the size of a mustard seed.  The seed puts forth a slender, fragile stalk, barely discernible above the soil.  Little by little, day by day, the stalk begins to bud and put forth tiny trembling leaves.  Sometimes it looks like nothing is happening.  We may wonder if our little sapling is going to make it.  But gradually it grows until in time it becomes a mighty tree.

We need to be patient with all, but especially new believers. Sometimes they grow by fits and starts.  One day they’re bubbling with joy; the next, slogging about in the slough of despair.  One day they’re surveying the battlefield like conquering Bravehearts; the next day they’re languishing in a pit of condemnation.

Maybe this is you.  You sincerely called on Jesus, and you’re trying to follow him, but keep falling. You feel like it’s two steps forward, three back.  Don’t despair.  Don’t quit.  If there’s one spark of the life of Jesus in you, one grain of true love to Jesus in your heart, he will complete the good work he’s begun in you.  In five years you won’t believe what he’s done for you.

Maybe you’re praying for your son or daughter.  If there are any signs of genuine life in them, keep praying.  Keep looking for more.  If they desire to follow Christ, keep encouraging them, even if they keep failing.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to meet once a week and read through the gospel of Matthew with a grad student from China.  He wasn’t born again.  His background was Buddhist, so almost every sentence took explaining.  Part of his motivation was to learn English, but it seemed there was a glimmer of genuine interest in Christianity.

I’ll take a glimmer.  God can work with a spark. Where there’s a faint glow of true interest in Christ there’s hope.  So don’t despise the day of small beginnings, in yourself, your children, or any believer.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench… (Isaiah 42:3)

photo by Mubina H

Do We Choose God Or Does God Choose Us?

So which is it? Did I choose God or did He choose me?

It’s a sticky question – one that has divided people for centuries. If God chose me, does that mean that I don’t have any free will? Does that mean that my choices aren’t really choices at all? Does that mean that I’m nothing more than a puppet on a divine string?

On the other hand, if I chose God, does that mean that God isn’t really sovereign? Does that mean that salvation is the one area that falls outside of God’s total, sovereign control?

It’s tricky. So what does the Bible say? Surely the Bible makes one or the other clear.

Well, sort of. Scripture makes it clear that God chooses us for salvation. And scripture makes it clear that we choose God. It’s not either or, it’s both. John 1:12-13 is a perfect example of this.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Who received the right to become children of God? It was those who believed in Jesus. Those who made a real choice to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This isn’t a trick verse. Those who believed in Jesus made a real choice to really believe in Jesus as the Son of God. So yes, we choose God. No doubt about it.

But something else is going on here. Those who believed in Jesus were born again. How? Not of blood, meaning not of any sort of natural birth. They also weren’t born again by the will of the flesh or the will of man. I understand this to mean that they weren’t born again because of anything they did. They absolutely could not cause themselves to be born again. Being born again is something that God and only God does.

Now, here’s the crucial question: did they choose God and then were born again, or were they born again and then chose God? Acts 16:14 is very helpful in answering this question. Speaking of Lydia, it says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” In other words, God made her spiritually dead heart come alive so that she could hear and respond to the gospel message. Another helpful verse is John 6:65, where Jesus says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

So do we choose God? Absolutely. We make a real to choice to repent of our sins and choose to follow God. But, scripture is also clear that God chooses us before we choose him. The Bible doesn’t try to reconcile these two truths, but instead presents them side by side.