“We have got to get over our obsession with celebrity and start making connections between what people say and what they actually do.”
This is true.
Yet, for what it’s worth, and to be fair, youngcons had a post with a pic of MM reading Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ (http://youngcons.com/oscar-winner-matthew-mcconaughey-reading-lee-strobels-case-for-christ-while-working-out/), so maybe he is in a place where he needs someone to disciple him, to guide him in career choices if he has any desire to make them through the sieve of the Bible. And if he does not have that inclination to bend his desires for the sake of his heart and a witness, then that is a sure danger sign — for him. Not for us to jump on the condemnation bandwagon.
Also, I posted an article recently on Facebook (http://philcooke.com/what-you-might-not-know/) about how little we see of what is happening behind the scenes — either because it is hidden from us by a Christianity-hating media, or because it would expose the work of real evangelists with access to open doors who would find those doors closing in a hurry, or a myriad of other reasons. MM should not be anybody’s hero just because he mentioned God. But neither should where he is today be judged by where he was yesterday, much less where he was months ago when the film was made.
Originally posted on Your Mom Has A Blog:
Christians are so proud.
And, I can’t blame us. I mean, how often do we hear a major celebrity, an Oscar winner, no less, identifying with us? How often do we get that kind of star power in our corner? It almost makes us seem sort of cool and legitimate.
Three Unbiblical Points
As I write and speak today, 14 years have elapsed since my queer activist days. I’m a new creature in Christ, and my testimony is still like iodine on starch. I’m sensitive to three unbiblical points of view Christian communities harbor when they address the issue of Christianity and homosexuality. Everywhere I go, I confront all three.
1. The Freudian position. This position states same-sex attraction is a morally neutral and fixed part of the personal makeup and identity of some, that some are “gay Christians” and others are not. It’s true that temptation isn’t sin (though what you do with it may be); but that doesn’t give us biblical license to create an identity out of a temptation pattern. To do so is a recipe for disaster. This position comes directly from Sigmund Freud, who effectually replaced the soul with sexual identity as the singular defining characteristic of humanity. God wants our whole identities, not partitioned ones.
2. The revisionist heresy. This position declares that the Bible’s witness against homosexuality, replete throughout the Old and New Testaments, results from misreadings, mistranslations, and misapplications, and that Scripture doesn’t prohibit monogamous homosexual sexual relations, thereby embracing antinomianism and affirming gay marriage.
3. The reparative therapy heresy. This position contends a primary goal of Christianity is to resolve homosexuality through heterosexuality, thus failing to see that repentance and victory over sin are God’s gifts and failing to remember that sons and daughters of the King can be full members of Christ’s body and still struggle with sexual temptation. This heresy is a modern version of the prosperity gospel. Name it. Claim it. Pray the gay away.
Worldview matters. And if we don’t reach back before the 19th century, back to the Bible itself, the Westminster divines, and the Puritans, we will limp along, defeated. Yes, the Holy Spirit gives you a heart of flesh and the mind to understand and love the Lord and his Word. But without good reading practices even this redeemed heart grows flabby, weak, shaky, and ill. You cannot lose your salvation, but you can lose everything else.
Enter John Owen. Thomas Watson. Richard Baxter. Thomas Brooks. Jeremiah Burroughs. William Gurnall. The Puritans. They didn’t live in a world more pure than ours, but they helped create one that valued biblical literacy. Owen’s work on indwelling sin is the most liberating balm to someone who feels owned by sexual sin. You are what (and how) you read. J. C. Ryle said it takes the whole Bible to make a whole Christian. Why does sin lurk in the minds of believers as a law, demanding to be obeyed? How do we have victory if sin’s tentacles go so deep, if Satan knows our names and addresses? We stand on the ordinary means of grace: Scripture reading, prayer, worship, and the sacraments. We embrace the covenant of church membership for real accountability and community, knowing that left to our own devices we’ll either be led astray or become a danger to those we love most. We read our Bibles daily and in great chunks. We surround ourselves with a great cloud of witnesses who don’t fall prey to the same worldview snares we and our post-19th century cohorts do.
In short, we honor God with our reading diligence. We honor God with our reading sacrifice. If you watch two hours of TV and surf the internet for three, what would happen if you abandoned these habits for reading the Bible and the Puritans? For real. Could the best solution to the sin that enslaves us be just that simple and difficult all at the same time? We create Christian communities that are safe places to struggle because we know sin is also “lurking at [our] door.” God tells us that sin’s “desire is for you, but you shall have mastery over it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin isn’t a matter of knowing better, it isn’t (only) a series of bad choices—and if it were, we wouldn’t need a Savior, just need a new app on our iPhone.
We also take heart, remembering the identity of our soul and thus rejecting the Freudian ideal that sexual identity competes with the soul. And we encourage other image-bearers to reflect the Original in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, not in the vapid reductionism that claims image-of-God theology means he loves you just way you are, just the way your sin manifests itself. Long hours traveling the road paved by Bible reading, theological study, and a solid grasp on hermeneutical fallacies gets you to a place where as sons and daughters of the King, people tempted in all manner of sin, we echo Owen: “The law grace writes in our hearts must answer to the law written in God’s Word.” We also take heart, remembering that God faithfully walks this journey with us, that victory over sin comes in two forms: liberty from it and humility regarding its stronghold. But it comes, truly, just as he will.
from “You are What — and How — You Read”, by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, at The Gospel Coalition.
Last week, during the bitter cold days that seem to no longer call for school cancellations or delays, I attended a funeral for a man I’d never met. It’s a little unusual, but it’s not unheard of. The deceased was the husband of someone I am acquainted with. His children are generally the same ages as my younger three, and they know one another, however not as anything more than acquaintances.
So, what in the world was I doing at this funeral, and why did I think I had a right to be eating the food provided for the reception following?
A few days before, providentially, I had posted on Facebook an article by Dee Sullivan, originally posted at NPR, titled, “Always go to the funeral“. Sullivan’s father was the one who instilled in her the weightiness of the gesture, ”You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.” The author recalls a time as a teen attending the visitation of a former teacher, and how that was forever remembered by the woman’s mother. The weight in the chest that she feels even to this day I think I can understand. All I did was show up. It doesn’t take anything to do that, so please don’t thank me or make me out to be a good person. All I did was show up. It’s so uncomfortable being thanked for attending a funeral, but as Sullivan says,
“‘Always go to the funeral’ means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
In going to funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.”
So I was at this incredibly well-attended funeral, where love was pouring out from all corners of this family’s lives into their souls and hearts and it was nigh impossible even to approach the bereaved. My son’s schedule had not allowed him to attend the afternoon service, so he went to the funeral home in the morning, but told me later he’d not been able to speak to the family because of the crowds.
But the widow, seeing me at the reception, came to me and said, “I saw Tommy this morning. Thank him, please thank him for coming. I wasn’t able to talk to him, but I don’t want him to think we don’t appreciate his being here.”
During the service, which was for a man whose adult life had been broadly and deeply touched by the community of Christ — including his wife and children — and yet who had never professed any faith in Christ, much was said about the gift of his life to those who knew him. The pastors who spoke — the pastor of the church he and his family attended, and his brother-in-law — never compromised the Scriptures by positing that a good man could go to heaven based on his goodness. But this man clearly was a good man in the kindest way that common grace can allow. (For when God grants good things to nonbelievers, His children are resultingly blessed as well.) He evidently was a selfless man, who listened to others, who devoted his life to his family, who was a man of integrity and a hard worker.
These virtues were gifts to the souls left behind, said pastor Shaun Nolan, the ones who are just now beginning to pick up the pieces, because in the gapingness and the vastness and the emptiness of his absence, what is remembered about his full and loving life is as big as Texas, as bright as an explosion, as poignant as a heartbeat. His brother-in-law, Glenn Hoburg, said, “I can’t imagine life without him being a part of it.”
This broken confession jostled me as I sat there in the crowd, in the midst of the emotions of friends and family, co-workers and acquaintances.
Whom would I feel this way about if I were to lose them suddenly, as my friend had lost her husband and this pastor had lost his brother-in-law?
Who takes up residence in my heart and my life, whose departure would leave such a hole, a void, that I would be at a loss for words? Whose place is so integral that the whole is unimaginable unless it’s complete?
My husband? who arrived late on the scene, and yet the past 18 years with him are definitely more the norm than the previous 33 — and are as close to completeness and perfection as there can be in this life. My children? each round out my life with uniquely shaped pieces of the puzzle called Laura. My mom and brothers and their families? Friends? I dearly love so many brothers and sisters in Christ, but would I say “I can’t imagine life without him/her” at their exits?
And in whose life would my exit cause a whirlwind of confusion? Who would say that my death makes them feel unimaginably lost? Am I that big a person? Do others devote that much space in their hearts to me? I fear I am too small in my heart to fill another’s. There is meanness and leanness in these chambers — that “narrow, suspicious, censorious, and selfish spirit” that John Newton refers to, not love or selflessness or consideration or any of those things that made people say those wonderful things about the deceased at that funeral. I am a pathetic lover of others.
Newton again: “It is well that we are not under the law, but under grace; for on whatever point we try ourselves by the standard of the sanctuary, we shall find reason to say, ‘Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord.’ There is an amazing and humbling difference between the conviction we have of the beauty and excellence of Divine truths, and our actual experience of their power ruling in our hearts. In our happiest hours, when we are most affected with the love of Jesus, we feel our love fervent towards his people. We wish it were always so; but we are poor inconsistent creatures, and find we can do nothing as we ought, but only as we are enabled by his grace.”
How huge the chasm between the love poured out on me by the Savior and what I show others! How huge also the love instilled in me by my Savior and what I show others! And yet it is possible for me to be a conduit of Christ’s love, for 1 Peter 1:22-25 says:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
I note what John MacArthur said in a sermon on this passage. “To love then for a believer is natural, or maybe I ought to say supernaturally natural. It is natural to our new state. In fact, John says if we don’t love one another we are not the children of God.” In our natural, unregenerate condition, we are stone cold and unresponsive and untouched by this divine provocation to love. Sure it is that we may have love for others that feeds the self or is a convenience or allows us to resonate with those who are likeminded. But do I have a supernatural love, one that doesn’t regard the worthiness of the other but the excellency of the One who has saved them as He has me?
“Do you love the people of God because they are the people of God?” asks Gardiner Spring, an early 19th century preacher. “Because you discover in them the amiableness of that religion which is altogether lovely? Do you love them, not merely because they love you or have bestowed favors upon you; not because they are of your party, but because they bear the image of your heavenly Father?
Do you love them for their love of God, their self-denial, their heavenliness, their usefulness in the world, their reproachless example, their faithfulness and love of duty? Do you love them when they reprove you, and when their example condemns you? And do you love them in proportion to the measure of these excellencies which they possess?
Do you feel an interest in them and for them? Can you bear and forbear with them? Can you forget their infirmities, or do you rejoice to magnify them? Can you cast the mantle of charity over their sins and pray for them, and watch over them, and pity, and love them still?
And can you feel thus and act thus toward the poorest and most despised of the flock and that because he is a Christian? If so, here is your encouragement ‘He that loves is born of God’ (I John 4:7).”
If I loved like this, would I leave others unable to imagine what their lives would be like without God’s goodness and mercy evidenced to me and paid forward, supernaturally naturally, to them?
Lord, enlarge my heart and love through me, making holes as you will.
And as You bless and comfort the widow and children whose loved one’s exit made holes in their lives, make me aware of how I may come around them and others whose hearts have holes carved out by death. Because all this I’ve written can be all about me, which makes it nothing more than an exercise in narcissistic navel gazing, or, Lord, it can all about the empty places others are grieving over today, which makes it a holy service to You.
(from Jeremiah Burroughs’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)
A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God.
Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filled by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself. Therefore you will observe, that whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless he gives himself it will not do. A godly heart will not only have the mercy, but the God of that mercy as well; and then a little matter is enough in the world, so be it he has the God of the mercy which he enjoys.
In Philippians 4:7,9… compare verse 7 with verse 9: “And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” The peace of God shall keep your hearts. Then in verse 9: “Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” The peace of God shall keep you and the God of peace shall be with you.
Here is what I would observe from this text, That the peace of God is not enough to a gracious heart except it may have the God of that peace. A carnal heart could be satisfied if he might but have outward peace, though it is not the peace of God; peace in the godly heart goes beyond a carnal. All outward peace is not enough; I must have the peace of God.
But suppose you have the peace of God, Will that not quiet you?
No, I must have the God of peace; as the peace of God so the God of peace.
I must enjoy that God who gives me the peace; I must have the Cause as well as the effect.
I must see from whence my peace comes, and enjoy the Fountain of my peace, as well as the stream of my peace.
And so in other mercies:
have I health from God? I must have the God of my health to be my portion, or else I am not satisfied.
It is not life, but the God of my life; it is not riches, but the God of those riches, that I must have, the God of preservation, as well as my preservation.
A gracious heart is not satisfied without this:
to have the God of the mercy, as well as the mercy.
In Psalm 73: 25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee?”
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
WSC Q: What do the Scriptures principally teach?
WSC A: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.”
For perspective, this week we look at the Shorter Catechism question on the Scriptures. The children are working on catechism questions and answers that have been drafted in the last few decades to correspond to the questions and answers from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which today is the catechism used by young people and adults to memorize points of doctrine in a systematic way.
The Shorter Catechism, incidentally, was intended for use by children — with its lengthy answers in heavily modified sentences. Douglas Kelly wrote in a piece commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Westminster Assembly that “The purpose of the Shorter Catechism is to educate chidlren and others ‘of weaker capacity’ (according to a preface written by the Church of Scotland) in the Reformed faith. It is based on the Larger Catechism, which was intended for us by ministers as they taught the faith to their congregations in preaching.” (HT: Wikipedia)
Now, that’s humbling.
Yet, even more humbling is the realization that the Scriptures themselves are given to us not simply to instruct us in what we should know about God, but also what duty God requires of us. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them! (John 13:17) If you think that this duty has anything to do with faith, you are quite mistaken. The duty is the one performed with joyful obedience that flows forth from a regenerated heart of gratitude and delight.
J.R. Miller, pastor at the turn of the last century, said:
“It is necessary to read the Bible, not just to know the will of God–but that we may do it. If Scripture is not the practice of our life–it is nothing to us.
Its truths are to be applied. If we read the Beatitudes, we are to compare ourselves with their Divine requirements, and seek to be conformed to them. If we come upon a verse that rebukes any habit or sin of ours–we are immediately to make the needed amendment.
We are to accept its promises, believe them–and then act as believing them.
We are to allow its comforts to enter our hearts and support us in sorrow.
There is nothing written in the Bible merely for ornament or beauty. Every word is practical! There is no truth in Scripture which has not some bearing upon actual living. When we come to it eager to know how to live, and ready to obey its precepts–we shall find it opening its inmost meaning to us!”*
If you love Me, you will obey My commandments. John 14:15
We know that we have come to know Him, IF we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him! 1 John 2:3-4
This marvelous treasure of the word of God has the power to do supernatural work in our hearts and in our lives. Let’s share this truth with our children by acting like we believe it!
* HT: GraceGems
This article first appeared at Three Rivers Grace blog on February 5, 2014.
This post first appeared at the Three Rivers Grace blog on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.
Question: Why did God give the Bible to us?
Answer: God gave the Bible to teach us about Himself and to show us how to live.
The heart is a mysterious thing. Not just the muscle and arteries and chambers parts of it. It’s fascinating enough to examine and marvel at God’s ways of creation. But the heart, as described by Scripture, is truly a mysterious thing, for, as Jeremiah said, “Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9b)
It will be where our treasure is (Matthew 6:21).
A pure heart must be created anew by God, accompanied by a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10).
Even when the heart of flesh fails, God Himself is the strength of a spiritual heart (Psalm 73:26).
The desires of my heart are directly related to my delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).
The pure in heart are blessed, and as such, will see God (Matthew 5:8).
When we teach the lessons of the catechism to children, we know we’re not doing so in a vacuum. There are countless levels of application the Lord will provide for us – all of us, from the children to the teachers to the parents to the helpers. There are just as many opportunities to meditate on the truths and consider how they fit with the pieces of doctrine and teaching the Lord has us hear from other sources – sermons, books, fellowship and discussion with friends, child training sessions, social media posts, music.
The filter for all of this is the heart. Is my heart prepared to hear what the Lord has to say to me about Himself, what He has done, and how He wants me to live for Him? Or is it opposed to the Bible’s teachings and exhortations; the Spirit’s prodding, comforts, and rebukes — even the Gospel message of grace and promise? Is my heart murmuring, fretting, vexing? Does it go about, unfettered, on unstable, disquieted, and tumultuous jaunts? Is it distracted? Is it sinking in disappointment?
Jesus cautioned the worries and cares of this world and its afflictions and distractions can choke out the Word as surely as invasive vines can throttle a plant or journeying roots can undermine a tree. Jeremiah Burroughs says in his classic work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, “God would have us depend on Him” despite the external events that might cause our hearts to fret or be disquieted. This contentment of the soul governs how we look to His word. How we regard the Bible and its purpose feeds our understanding of whence comes a heart ready to love and trust God.
I must not neglect to consider the matters of the heart when training up my children in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, to be attuned to internal rumblings that would oppose what the Lord wants to do or say, not only to me, but to them, as well.