Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Wisdom (Page 2 of 3)

The Faithfulness Fallacy

Some Background

A little while ago John MacArthur did a series of posts critiquing the ‘Young, Restless, and Reformed’ movement. Needless to say, it created quite a stir.

Those who disagreed with MacArthur argued that he was using sweeping generalizations that were unhelpful and uncharitable and that his tone was unloving and combative. We felt scolded as if by an absentee father who hadn’t invested in us, but stopped by to spank us anyway.

The response from those who sided with MacArthur was, by and large, ‘He has pastored faithfully for 40 years, you need to listen to him.’ To be sure, the response was more than that, and included biblical justification of gaining wisdom from elders, etc. In the end, I argued that the responsibility remains on the younger ones of us to make sure we’re listening, even if we’re not being addressed as we’d like.

History Repeats

Isn’t it interesting how history seems to repeat itself? Recently James MacDonald came under fire for his public schmoozing with TD Jakes. One of the responses to the criticism that I’ve heard has been this: ‘James has faithfully pastored for 30 years, has led Harvest, sent out church planters, and people have been saved! Let’s show some respect!’

Both times (with MacArthur and MacDonald) the defenders of these public figures appealed to past faithfulness as a defence for present action. That’s worth noting.

Ad Hominem by Any Other Name

In logic an ad hominem attack is when you criticize a person rather than their idea. What I find fascinating in both of the above cases is that the defence being used is actually ad hominem. In other words, rather than defending the actions or ideas of the person which have drawn the scrutiny, the defenders of these individuals have resorted to speaking about the men themselves. But who the men are and what they have done in the past was never the issue.

On Balance

We need to attempt to avoid extremes. On the one hand, wisdom acknowledges the experience of the aged and proven faithful:

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendour of old men is their gray hair (Prov 20.29)

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Prov 23.22)

And we must ‘walk’ with those who have a proven track record of faithfully displaying wisdom:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov 13.20)

That being said, we must not pre-judge a matter based on past faithfulness or wisdom alone. Whether it is MacArthur, MacDonald, Don Carson or Tim Keller — or any of the heroes of that faith for that matter — we must hear a matter out fully, weigh the opposing views in the balance and prayerfully seek wisdom.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Prov 18.13)

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Prov 18.17)

And let’s not forget that it was the youngest witness of Job’s sufferings who had heard all the others speak first, who finally answered with wisdom.

Berean Honour

While we must honour those who have laboured before us and for us, the simple truth is that we do not biblically honour them if we do not weigh the wisdom of their words and actions against God’s word. No matter how faithful a man has been in the past, he is still a man, and still in need of ongoing correcting and perfecting this side of eternity. We must show them love, respect, and the benefit of the doubt, but we must never turn a blind eye to present unfaithfulness simply because we’ve witnessed past faithfulness.

I hope the people of Grace Fellowship Church would honour me and honour God in this same Berean way.

Social Media and Temptations to Sin

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the list is endless and growing. The options and opportunities for engaging in online social media are legion. To be sure, as Tim Challies points out in The Next Story, technology is not in and of itself either good or bad. Christians must engage deliberately and discerningly in an effort to redeem the opportunities afforded by living in the age we do.

It must be stressed again, however, that this engagement must be thoughtful. If we say, ‘I just like it’ and then go full-steam, headlong into the world of facebook, twitter, or whatever, we will be setting ourselves up for disaster.

Here are just a few of the immediate temptations we need to be aware of that come hand-in-hand with participation in social media:

Better to Say Something Than Nothing

All social media experts (and SEO folk for you bloggers) will tell you that dead air is death. You’ll lose your drawing power and your readership if you don’t post frequently.

Now, of course, when they say that, they mean ‘post something good frequently.’ But most of us are not Tim Challies (who has now blogged for 2,839 consecutive days). We simply cannot produce good content that regularly. So, we just post something rather than nothing.

But consider:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Prov 17.28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19)

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Prov 13.3)

Instant Broadcast of Words

Status updates, comments, replies, recommendations, text messages, ‘instant’ messages from your phone, tablet, or other mobile device… they all hang on the notion of communicating in a flash. But your words, once published, are permanent.

But consider:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Prov 18.2)

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Prov 18.13)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov 29.20)

Confusing Talking (Typing?) with Doing

When using social media for just causes we can think that we’re actually accomplishing something meaningful. More often than not, however, we’re just placating our own consciences and rallying people who already agreed with us. The temptation here can be to think that we’re doing when all we’re really doing is talking.

But consider:

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Prov 14.23)

The Disembodiment of the Medium

Online we function as much as ‘avatars’ as we do real people. We can create and live in any persona we so choose. There are many downsides to that. One of them is that we tend to look at other people as disembodied avatars as well. We can be tempted to denounce things much more strongly and put people down much more absolutely when they are just an image on a screen rather than the image of the living God standing right in front of us.

But consider:

… no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3.8-10)

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Prov 16.21) {Note: Emphasis mine. Isn’t it interesting how so many people who prize discernment really aren’t all that big on sweetness of speech?}

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov 18.6)

Friends, Followers, and Feed-Readers

Much of what happens in the social media world is measured by some kind of ‘analytics.’ Friends in Facebook, followers in Twitter, subscribers in the blog-world, etc. It is tempting to measure our success by how many people ‘like’ what we write or ‘retweet’ what we post. We can find value in having people follow us, becoming our ‘online disciples’ of sorts.

But consider Jesus’s description of the Pharisees who set themselves up as teachers:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23:5-12)

In All That We Do…

In all that we do, whether we eat or drink tweet or blog, let us do so to the glory of God, carefully considering:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Prov 18.21)

Any more?

Have you noticed more temptations to sin using social media? What other Scriptures are relevant?

The Wisdom of God

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **


It may sound overly self-deprecating, but if I’m being entirely honest I’ll tell you that I’m not that smart. Really, truly. Time and time again I have thought life situations through, made plans, budgeted, strategized, plotted… only to see my plans go up in smoke.

My foolishness is not limited to planning. How about praying? As I look back over my life I’m utterly horrified to think of some of the things I have actually prayed for. In retrospect, I simply cannot believe some of the things that I really thought it would be a good idea to ask God to give me. Hindsight being what it is, I can see how many of my requests that I brought to God were totally foolish.

Sometimes the things I have wanted were silly. Other times they were evil. Sometimes I was honestly misled and disillusioned. Other times I think I knew subconsciously that what I wanted was wrong, but still wanted it bad enough that I thought maybe if I prayed, God could figure out a way to give it to me in a way that would be good. Whether I realized it in the moment or not, that’s dumb.

Sometimes God has given me the foolish things I sought; other times not. Sometimes this has been his discipline; other times it has been his gracious condescending benevolence overcoming my near-sighted selfishness.

As I look back now over all my life and all the things God has given and all the things God has withheld, the only thought I’m left with is this: he is wise, I am not. He acts for a purpose, and his ways are good. In all the dispensations of his providence in my life, no matter how they felt in the moment, I have always consistently seen his wisdom. My wife, my kids, my sin, my growth, my church, my house, my van, my family, the divorce of my parents, the weather: in everything I have seen his wisdom. His thoughts are not mine; I don’t know them ahead of time, and often I don’t know them in retrospect, but what I do know is that what I see is wisdom.

Of course, I’m thankful for that because it highlights the gospel for me again. Who would think of honour through shame? Who would imagine a king who is exalted to his throne by way of a cross? Who could fathom the one sinned against becoming the sin so that the sinner might become the righteousness of God? Who could look ahead, declaring the end from the beginning, announcing the victory of Jesus at very moment of humanity’s fall? Who could use rebellious enemies to accomplish his perfect plan? Who would send his Son to die so that he might redeem from death his now adopted sons & daughters?

His ways are not my ways, and his thoughts are not my thoughts. I’ve seen this in my life; I’ve seen it in the gospel. Now I pray that if God gives me another 30 years on this planet, that I would live like I believe he is wise. I pray that he would give me grace to not lean on my own understanding, but to acknowledge him in all my ways, believing that he will make my paths straight. I cannot understand him, this I know; but I can trust him, because I know he is wise.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11.33-36, ESV)

Tim Challies’ Admonition to Toronto Pastors

pastor-train-your-church-to-think-biblically-toronto-pastors-fellowshipYesterday was the March meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship–and it was a blessing!

Friend and fellow church-member, Tim Challies, brought the charge, ‘Pastor, Train Your People to Think Biblically!’ The audio and text are now both available online. Click here to check out the paper and the mp3.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think we ought to pause to draw out this point just a little bit. One of the areas where discernment most often goes awry is in this area of speaking truth with love. Those who emphasize discernment are typically able to voice the truth; it is love that is far too often lacking. Many ministers, and perhaps even you, can testify to the damage done to churches in the name of discernment. Just recently pastor James MacDonald wrote that he has seen more damage done to the church by Christians with the gift of discernment than by anyone else. Many ministers have erred themselves in this regard, emphasizing truth at the expense of love. It is here that we should remember the Bible’s injunctions to remain childlike. We can go back to 1 Corinthians 14:20 and see Paul’s exhortation to “Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” When it comes to what is evil, we need to remain as little children, being innocent toward all evil things. Too many people who emphasize discernment spend inordinate amounts of time seeking out evil, dwelling upon evil, all in the name of refuting it. There is great danger in filling our hearts and lives with what is evil. So as you train your church in discernment,  do so in a way that encourages and edifies rather than in a way that tears down and destroys.

Proverbs 18 and Your Tongue

Last night at GFC we read the Scriptures publicly (like we aim to do at all our meetings). We’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs one chapter at a time at our prayer meetings. This week we found ourselves in Proverbs 18.

When Stacey and I got home we spent some time looking at a few of these proverbs again. I was really challenged to think about the tongue again. The Scriptures pull no punches when making statements about how we speak, how it affects others, how it reflects our heart, and how we will be held accountable for our words.

Here’s a little collection of proverbs (just from Proverbs 18) on the tongue. Note both the negative and the positive results you can reap from simply speaking. I hope it helps you to carefully consider how to use your tongue today.

  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
  • The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
  • A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
  • A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
  • The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
  • An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
  • The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
  • A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarrelling is like the bars of a castle.
  • From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
  • The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly.

Ants in the Kitchen

This morning I saw ants in the kitchen. I won’t say where… but it wasn’t it my home (thankfully!). My first thought, naturally, was disgust and repulsion. I saw them crawling all over a little section near the back of the counter and shuddered. I can’t stand when ants get inside.

Since there appeared to be no Raid around, I decided to ignore them. Besides, they weren’t near the coffee mug I had brought in to wash in the sink, so they shouldn’t really bother me. But then, when I started to wash my mug, I looked down and there was one of those little pests, crawling around in the sink! Without a second thought I filled my mug with water and sent that ant a-swimming down the drain.

About 10 seconds later another thought hit me. Proverbs 6.6-8 says this:

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

I remembered that and began to think this: How hard must it have been for those ants to get in here? I’m sure they’ve worked really hard for a long time to get where they are! And who told them to? No one, of course. They have no leader, no boss, but they are wise and work hard as long as they can, for the sake of the cause. 

But here’s the thing: What is it really worth? If an ant is found in the wrong place at the wrong time he gets trapped, sprayed, poisoned, or washed down a sink. He loses everything… for the sake of gaining pretty much nothing. But for his cause, he was willing to work–and to work hard, at that!

That was a good reminder for me this morning to get going with the day’s work. How much more do I have to work for! I actually have a Master who will call me to account. And unlike the ant kingdom, the kingdom of Christ really is worth dying for.

How much more shameful, then, if one of those little ants out-works me today…

Which Wisdom?

Saul is a foil character. A foil character exists as a backdrop against which the positive traits of the protagonist may be displayed. It’s bizarre that Saul would be one, because everyone in his day thought he was going to be the hero. It’s also bizarre because he is supposed to be the hero: he is the king of Israel!

In 1 Samuel 12, Saul experienced great victory in battle against the enemies of God’s people. All the people showed great faith in him as their leader, and the kingdom was renewed under him. 1 Samuel 13, however, tells a different story.

When the people lose faith in Saul (because they are astronomically outnumbered), Saul does the ‘wise’ thing from a human perspective. He goes ahead with the sacrifice that they needed to carry out before heading into battle. He knows there’s a time to act, and this is it, and the prophet who was supposed to do it isn’t here. It would be foolish to wait. Waiting would mean less people to fight with you. Waiting would mean looking silly as a king. Waiting would mean people would lose even more confidence in you.

When Samuel arrives, he pronounces judgement on the king, who has acted ‘foolishly,’ and announces that he will lose more than the battle–he will lose his throne.

Saul is the foil for Jonathan in the next chapter. Jonathan looks at the drastic situation (impossible by human standards), and says, ‘Hey, why not try something great and see if the Lord will bless it?’ So he grabs his armour bearer, and the two of them head off to take on the Philistines all on their own. That seems foolish–or at least foolhardy. 

But sure enough, brave Jonathan, who ventures everything on God, is blessed! They show up and immediately strike down about twenty men, cause panic in the Philistine camp, and lead the whole charge for the Israelite army. Even the chicken-hearted soldiers who fled from his father’s poor leadership came out of the caves and graves where they were hiding to follow Jonathan. 

Man’s wisdom resulted in condemnation. Saul rushed ahead and did what seemed wise from his vantage point. Jonathan examined the situation, but calculated how the Lord may be pleased to work, despite how things looked. He made the ‘foolish’ decision of risking much on God.

May God give me grace to know that kind of wisdom!

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