6.30.2011

Thoughts on suicide

[Sorry for the repost - text formatting was bad the first time.]
Thinking through this issue, I did an online search and found this article.
I interact with it below, my thoughts in [this type.]




Question: "What is the Christian view of suicide? What does the Bible say about suicide?"

Answer: 
The Bible mentions six specific people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul's armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4-6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (Matthew 27:5). Five of them were wicked, sinful men (not enough is said regarding Saul's armor-bearer to make a judgment as to his character). Some consider Samson an instance of suicide (Judges 16:26-31), but Samson's goal was to kill the Philistines, not himself. The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is—self-murder. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die.

According to the Bible, suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide, he has done nothing but “expedite” his journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because he committed suicide. 
[These 3 previous sentences are really good.] What does the Bible say about a Christian who commits suicide? The Bible teaches that from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). [Besides the dangerous but easy inference that you aren't a Christian unless you have no doubt, this is also bad exegesis: "we can know we have life" doesn't mean we will have no doubt about it, ever.] Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). If no “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing,” then not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love. [Kind of a strange argument, but I think it works.] Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, that would still be a sin covered by the blood of Christ. [YES]

Suicide is still a serious sin against God. According to the Bible, suicide is murder[yes.] ; it is always wrong.  [Not necessarily.] Serious doubts should be [I would say "can be" - there are times it is inappropriate] raised about the genuineness of faith of anyone who claimed to be a Christian yet committed suicide. There is no circumstance that can justify someone, especially a Christian, taking his/her own life. [I would not be so dogmatic. There might be a few extreme circumstances that justify it.] Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision on when to die is God’s and God’s alone. Although it is not describing suicide, 1 Corinthians 3:15 is probably a good description of what happens to a Christian who commits suicide: “He himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

6.29.2011

Family Worship

I liked this very short post on family worship.

"Second Thoughts on Family Worship."

I also liked Joel Beeke's article it links to. Hm.

I'm an idealist who gets a kick from resolving to do the right thing and setting up a plan to do it. God can use that to grow me, but it can also be idolatrous will-worship.

I also see the need to back off, take the pressure off, and ENJOY the Lord. This article leans that way. God can use that to grow me, but it can also be self-indulgent sloth.

6.22.2011

South Sea Island Rescue

John G. Paton South Sea Island Rescue (Trail Blazers)John G. Paton South Sea Island Rescue by Kay Walsh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of this series I read.

As far as literary quality goes, it was rather poor. The narrative was choppy and dialogue was abrupt.

As far as content goes, this was a compelling story of a Scot missionary committed to a cannibalistic tribe on a south sea island. What happens to him and his response is faith-inspiring. Paton laid down his life to get people to see and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. He remained committed when people would backslide into murder and revenge. I think I enjoyed the well-digging scenes the most.

Recommended for 8-12 year old exposure to foreign lands, worldviews, and missionaries.


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6.21.2011

The Doctrine of Repentance

The Doctrine of Repentance (Puritan Paperbacks) The Doctrine of Repentance (Puritan Paperbacks) by Thomas Watson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With typical Puritan thoroughness, Thomas Watson explored in 1668 what it means to repent. It is still potent today.

Watson considers what repentance isn't, what it is, reasons to repent, and warnings for not repenting. He exhorts us to repent, to repent speedily. He describes repentance, the comfort that comes with it, obstacles to repentance, and ways to repent. Scripture flows freely from Watson's pen, especially at the end of chapters as he comes to his climax.

The title will mislead the modern reader, for this is no abstract textbook about repentance out there on a classroom chalkboard. No, Watson probes the depths of the soul, addressing you directly, exhorting you to practice the repentance he describes.

While thoroughness is typical and expected of Puritans, this work also is typical in an unexpected way to the modern reader. It is filled with colorful metaphor. Several puritans were such, to the surprise of contemporary folk schooled in the assumptions that they wore black and scowled all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the second sentence of the book, Watson tells us that "faith and repentance" are the "two wings by which [the believer] flies to heaven." And he doesn't let off the pedal of picturesque language throughout, like PG Wodehouse in an installment of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. Sin is not an ornament, but excrement. Sin is a bruise which gangrenes and kills if not cured. Tears of repentance are showers that bring the flower of grace to blossom. And on and on.

Maybe it's just from not having read any puritans for a while, but this gets a rare 5 stars in my book.


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More Watson

"A sinner will rather lose Christ and heaven than his lusts." (100)

"Delighting in sin hardens the heart. In true repentance there must be a grieving for sin, but how can one grieve for that which he loves? He who delights in sin can hardly pray against it. His heart is so inveigled with sin that he is afraid of leaving it too soon." (102)

"There can be no separation from sin till there be union with Christ." (122)

Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance

Things I missed in Scripture

1 Kings 21:27-29
"So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. 
28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.”

Most Christians know the wickedness of Ahab, King of Israel. He marries Jezebel, supports the Baal prophets that Elijah opposes on Mt. Carmel, murders Naboth and steals his vineyard.

What most miss or forget is that Ahab repents.

And God listens. God delays the punishment on Ahab for a generation. And He does this knowing that in the next chapter, Ahab will again reject His prophet. Ahab was not devoted to the Lord, yet God tempers His judgment with mercy, when Ahab responds with repentance.

How we need to learn to speak words of judgment that welcome repentance and change! In our flesh, we either avoid the truth, which means we care more about being comfortable than about the person getting out of sin. Or we like to condemn and speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may, which means we care more about hearing ourselves talk than about seeing the other person change.

Gems from Watson

"Let us grieve for the inclination of our affections. Our love is set on sin, our joy on the creature. Our affections... feed on dung..." (pg 74)

"It is better to mortify one sin than to understand all mysteries." (77)

[An objection to repenting]
"Oh, but my sins are out of measure sinful! [i.e., too great] Do not make them greater by not repenting. Repentance unravels sin and makes it as if it had never been." (79)

Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance.

6.20.2011

So repent when you get wet

"It is not falling into water that drowns, but lying in it.
It is not falling into sin that damns, but lying in it without repentance."

Thomas Watson, "The Doctrine of Repentance," Banner of Truth: 2009 (written 1668): pg 62.

6.17.2011

Why do we baptize infants?

Why Do We Baptize Infants? (Basics of the Reformed Faith)Why Do We Baptize Infants? by Bryan Chapell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clear and succinct argument for infant baptism - under 30 pages! Dealt well with covenant concept and NT texts. Last section on benefits of baptism was the weakest, a little wordy and not as clear. An excellent intro to the topic.


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Just one more

Just One More: When Desires Don't Take No for an Answer (Resources for Changing Lives)Just One More: When Desires Don't Take No for an Answer by Edward T. Welch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly addresses the inner war we fight, and the battles we lose, over besetting sins. This booklet is gospel- and forgiveness-in-Christ-driven, which is sadly lacking too often in addressing sin.


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The dragon of pornography

Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (Resources for Changing Lives)Pornography: Slaying the Dragon by David Powlison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent. Also good in parts for young women to understand the male mind.


Read this again in June 2011, reviewing for our church's book table.

I am convinced that porn is destroying not only the purity, but the FAITH of thousands of men in the church. This booklet vividly pictures the mental life of a porn user, and offers real help without perfunctory and empty checklists. Seeing what you're actually doing is key to repentance and change. "It was more than just sex.... Once I got honest, I found peace."


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How Do I stop lising it with my kids?

5-Pack How Do I Stop Losing It with My Kids?5-Pack How Do I Stop Losing It with My Kids? by William P. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Excellent teaching on where the parents' heart and goal must be in training children. We get angry when we get focused on our own desires instead of God's standards. Good practical tips on what to do instead, when you start getting angry with your child.

This gave me tangible help LAST NIGHT in dealing better with a lying child than in the past.


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Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse: How to Help (Resources for Changing Lives)Domestic Abuse: How to Help by David Powlison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm glad I'm reviewing these before putting them on our church book table. This is good, but more for pastors than for the people - how to help the victim assess safety and disarm an abuser with words. Being firm and responding appropriate authority to violence. Helping the abuser see the root sin under the conspicuous violence and deal with the root. (Hint: James 4 is key.)


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Depression

Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down (Resources for Changing Lives)Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down by Edward T. Welch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When depressed your thoughts and feelings are off track. It takes a fight of fith to listen to proper thoughts in the Word and from other people, instead of your own. You will only engage in that fight if you really want to change. Many depressed people would rather stay as they are than fight that battle. But there is hope for far more, if you do fight! Practical, comforting, and truth-speaking, this booklet will lead you out of depression, to the Lord Jesus and His Word. There's a great last paragraph on the cause being spiritual or chemical, and how that is actually irrelevant...


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When Pa comes home

by Edgar Guest (last post was, too)

When Pa comes home, I'm at the door,

An' then he grabs me off the floor
An' throws me up an' catches me
When I come down, an' then, says he:
"Well, how'd you get along to-day?
An' were you good, an' did you play,
An' keep right out of mamma's way?
An' how'd you get that awful bump
Above your eye? My, what a lump!
An' who spilled jelly on your shirt?
An' where'd you ever find the dirt
That's on your hands? And my! Oh, my!
I guess those eyes have had a cry,
They look so red. What was it, pray?
What has been happening here to-day?

An' then he drops his coat an' hat
Upon a chair, an' says: "What's that?
Who knocked that engine on its back
An' stepped upon that piece of track?"
An' then he takes me on his knee
An' says: "What's this that now I see?
Whatever can the matter be?
Who strewed those toys upon the floor,
An' left those things behind the door?
Who upset all those parlor chairs
An' threw those blocks upon the stairs?
I guess a cyclone called to-day
While I was workin' far away.
Who was it worried mamma so?
It can't be anyone I know."

An' then I laugh an' say: "It's me!
Me did most ever'thing you see.
Me got this bump the time me tripped.
An' here is where the jelly slipped
Right off my bread upon my shirt,
An' when me tumbled down it hurt.
That's how me got all over dirt.
Me threw those building blocks downstairs,
An' me upset the parlor chairs,
Coz when you're playin' train you've got
To move things 'round an awful lot."
An' then my Pa he kisses me
An' bounces me upon his knee
An' says: "Well, well, my little lad,
What glorious fun you must have had!"

Father's Day Poem

ONLY A DAD


Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Brining little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

6.15.2011

Hate it

"Christ is never loved till sin be loathed."

Thomas Watson, "The Doctrine of Repentance." Banner of Truth, 2009: pg 45.

6.14.2011

Purity from imperfect people, by the Spirit

James 4:1-3
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."

Randy Booth

“There is a sense in which it is appropriate for us to be private people. Unfortunately, this can become an excuse for a person to remain “private” when, in fact, God requires them to be public. Worship, fellowship, service, prayer, confession, labor, and much more demand a sort of public exposure. In genuine community we must be seen, and we must be seen beyond the veneer. We all possess many insecurities and we all spend a great deal of our time and energy covering up those insecurities. Yet the work of sanctification involves changing, growing and maturing i.e., becoming like Jesus Christ. This is how we overcome those insecurities. It has pleased God to place His people in local churches along with other redeemed sinners to work that work. In addition to the word and sacraments, the Holy Spirit uses real people to affect those changes; they are His instruments. It’s in the day-to-day real life relationships that our faith is tested, we are instructed, and we have the opportunities to put our faith into practice; and we know that practice makes perfect.”

Thus far pastor Booth, I would add that it is very easy to take those real people God uses to help us change, and begrudge or blame them, when living close to them points out our faults. We need Christ’s Spirit to keep us to the task of purging away our own ungodly desires.

2/27/11

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Sacrifice bears fruit

Psalm 80:8-19
    8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; 
          You have cast out the nations, and planted it. 
    9      You prepared room for it, 
          And caused it to take deep root, 
          And it filled the land. 
    17      Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, 
          Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 
    18      Then we will not turn back from You; 
          Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. 
    19      Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; 
          Cause Your face to shine, 
          And we shall be saved! 


We are God’s field, His vineyard. He sends His vine into our midst, and all us wild rotting branches need to attach and cling to Him if we are to live and bear fruit. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath, poured out His blood. This cup reminds us of that blood, and it also shows us joyful fruit of the vine. God’s Spirit produces this fruit in us, for His glory and our joy. Give thanks to Him for Christ’s sacrifice, and the resulting fruit that flows from Him to you and from you to your neighbor.

2/27/11

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A Piece of the Mountain

A Piece of the Mountain:The Story of Blaise PascalA Piece of the Mountain:The Story of Blaise Pascal by Joyce McPherson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent biography for young readers that explores how a scientist works through faith issues in an age of reason. Highly recommended


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6.13.2011

Subtle Stephen Speaks

Reading Acts 7 again. Stephen's speech is a rhetorical and strategic masterpiece. Early on, he keeps throwing in these hints that the Sanhedrin did to Jesus what Israel did to Moses, all while recounting Israel's history in detail, thus proving he is "a good Jew." He thus gets them to listen before turning up the heat and making it more clear: Israel rejected Moses, and Moses said God would send a prophet like Moses, and that we were to listen to Him.

His last short section is in-your-face and inflammatory. Stiff-necked! Uncircumcised! Sons of those who murdered the prophets! (Who foretold the One you all killed!) You have the law, but you don't keep it.  This last one was probably the worst, as their greatest point of pride was that they kept the law of Moses.

6.08.2011

The Dark Frigate

The Dark FrigateThe Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fairly decent pirate story, about a boy who gets caught up with the wrong crowd. Justice is done to the pirates, but the boy rightly walks free, is disappointed in love and grows to fight in the English revolution. In the end he leaves on the same boat for Barbados to escape the Psalm singers in England and the new world. Cringed at the ending, but the battle scenes and pirate dynamics were well done.


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Sword in the Tree

The Sword in the Tree (Trophy Chapter Book)The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very good beginning reader book, about justice in the time of King Arthur.


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6.07.2011

Lotsa good reading today

... in Touchstone magazine, Jan/Feb 2011 issue.

Randall Smith, in "Waiting for God?"
"I think back on those times when I supposed God was 'taking His own sweet time.' For example, all those years I waited for Him to send me a wife - I have to admit in retrospect that an awful lot of that 'waiting for God' was just 'me-not-being-ready.' God was the one who was waiting - patiently.... Perhaps if I had spent more time asking God to make me ready and less time wondering when He was going to 'deliver,' He could have sent my wife along earlier."

Charles Colton, in "Passages of Time."
"It's okay to be agnostic over things about which Scripture is not clear. I have met folks for whom everything is perfectly clear, and uniformly found that they don't seem to be nice people. They are not bad people, just not nice people."

"To read the Hebrew Bible requires that we think like Hebrews think, and not just know Hebrew. It is far better to read from the English with an Oriental mind than to read from the hebrew with a Western mind. We import more of our modern (Western) assumptions into our reading of Scripture than we realize. It is right to build a bridge between the sacred text and ourselves, so long as we're careful to understand that traffic (i.e., meaning) along that bridge moves in but one direction."

Consider their frame

This was so good I just had to quote it in full.


Nancy Wilson
Here’s how my husband puts it: The goal is not to get your children to conform to the standard. The goal is to get them to love the standard. If you can’t get them to love the standard, lower the standard.


Getting them to conform is relatively easy when they are little. But once they have grown up, if they don’t love it, they will abandon it. This can explain why some teenagers leave the church and fall in love with the world. They conformed until they were seventeen or eighteen because they had to. But the standard was never internalized, never loved.


That strange command about not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk applies here (Exodus 23:18-20).  The milk is intended for life and should not be used as an instrument of death. We should bring our children up to be nourished by the milk of the Word, the milk of family life, the milk of worship and obedience to God. But if we turn up the heat too high, we will not nourish them, but destroy them.


Parents can chase their children away by creating high standards that they think are required of God: table rules, bedtime rules, play rules, comb-your-hair-and-clean-your-room rules, chore lists extraordinaire, shine-your-shoes-and-sit-still rules for church, and on and on. Some may be good and necessary, but many can be over-reaching the mark which turns out to be falling short of the mark.


Yes, it’s lovely to see a family all neat and clean and in order. But at what cost? Does Dad yell at them at the breakfast table? Does Mom scold them all the way to church? I’m telling you, God hates it and so do the children. Rather a row of squirmy kids with mismatched socks who are happy and love their parents than a battalion of persecuted and long-faced misery counting the minutes until church is over.


When the kids are feeling persecuted this way, parents are the ones who need to change, not the kids. That is why lowering the standard for the kids is actually raising the bar for the parents.

6.02.2011

Sadness; Going Astray - Psalm 119

Psalm 119:136
"Rivers of water run down from my eyes,
Because men do not keep Your law."

In my circles it's often considered weak and soft to cry, or to be sad at wickedness. We're supposed to fight and oppose it, instead of cry about it, right? Wrong. Sadness is just as appropriate as anger, if not more so.



Psalm 119:176
"I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek Your servant, For I do not forget Your commandments."

This is the last verse of a very long Psalm. The Psalmist spends 175 verses saying he rejoices in the Word, loves it, follows it, keeps it, considers it, delights in it, hopes in it, remembers it, learns it.

Then the last verse is, "I've gone astray."

In spite of all our resolutions and genuine obedience, there's always something that leads us astray.