The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 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 the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.
– John 1:9-13, ESV
Here are five items of interest I ran across while reading. Topics include civility in political discourse, a Christian sexual ethic, controversy in the church, internet trolls in church clothes, and prayer.
1. Civility Is Not Surrender.
David French at National Review wrote an excellent piece on how we can debate people who oppose our point of view. He said we need humility, conviction, and a sense of proportion. I wanted to highlight what he had to say about humility as we engage in public debate:
The Jesus who blasted the Pharisees is omniscient. He knows the secrets of a man’s heart. The prophets who thundered against injustice had the benefit of hearing directly from God. Me? I’m just a person who “sees through a glass darkly.” I’m keenly aware of my limited knowledge and wisdom. I’m keenly aware that even when I can know the truth, I don’t always know the best way to communicate that truth.
Thus it’s imperative to read the best expression of the opposing side’s point of view. Reading only the worst (as entertaining as that can be) is inherently deceptive. It can wrongly confirm your own self-righteousness and wrongly demonize your opponent. Read the best, and you’ll not only learn, you’ll also find that your fellow citizens — people who also see through a glass darkly — often share many of your core values and seek the public good with equal (or often superior) diligence.
But humility shouldn’t be paralyzing. A person should still advocate for his or her ideas with conviction. Individual liberty and the sanctity of life, for example, are ideas worth fighting for. We can agree and acknowledge that an opponent might be brilliant and well-meaning (sometimes they’re neither, obviously), but they are still wrong. They still must be opposed.
2. Searching for the Pathway Back to a Christian Sexual Ethic
Trevin Wax wrote this excellent article at The Gospel Coalition.
He asks some excellent questions about Christians who have taken the path away from biblical orthodoxy as it pertains to sex and relationships, and how we relate to those who want to turn back.
How will we treat people who thought they were taking a bold step forward into the future of Christianity, only to realize they’d stepped onto a rapidly descending escalator that left them powerless to affirm any kind of Christian morality at all?
Will we show grace to people who once doubted the Christian position on sexuality, but who now doubt their doubts, who now are considering a return to the traditional Christian position?
Will we provide pathways home for evangelicals who once walked down the path for same-sex marriage but have now mustered up the courageous humility necessary to return to the unchanging witness of the church?
3. Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary.
Here’s the money quote from Albert Mohler’s piece at Ligonier Ministries’ blog:
The history of the church also reminds us of the necessity of controversy when the truth of the gospel is at stake. Time and again, we see crucial moments when truth must be defended or denied. The church has to look squarely at what is being taught and decide if the teaching is true to the Scriptures. This usually produces controversy. If the church believed that controversy is to be avoided at all costs, we would have no idea what the gospel is.
To our shame, the church has often been divided over the wrong controversies. Congregations and denominations have divided over issues that are, in the light of God’s Word, indifferent. Furthermore, some churches seem to thrive on controversy, even as some church members and leaders are agents of disunity. This brings shame and reproach on the church, and it distracts the church from its task of preaching the gospel and making disciples.
So, how are we to know if a controversy is right or wrong? The only way to answer this question is to go to Scripture and evaluate the importance of the issues of debate. All questions of truth are important, but not all are equally important.
4. Do We Comment Like Unbelievers?
Greg Morse wrote a piece called “Internet Trolls In Church Clothes: How to ‘Comment’ The Truth in Love” at desiringGod. He asks do we comment like unbelievers?
Now, Christians should not gasp every time the trolls, who pick fights and sow discord online, speak and type maliciously from their miserable hearts. We are not surprised when toads and mosquitoes proceed from swamps. But we should be surprised when rats proceed from the palace of the Spirit of God; when pollution continually proceeds from the river of life coming from the believer’s heart.
Some of us, like Saul before Damascus, have been persecutors of the church of God online. Instead of using our comments to sharpen our brothers and sisters, we sharpen our axes to do away with their heads. Our insults and hasty speech refuse to heed our Master’s earnest call: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He who laid his life down for us calls us to model the drama. But too often, we do not lay down our insults — let alone our lives — for our brothers.
I am not speaking against evaluation in general, nor critique specifically. We must watch our doctrine carefully (1 Timothy 4:16); we must speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15) — a truth that presumably is hard to hear, thus it should be spoken with love. But the spirit of fault-finding and nitpicking is not the spirit of Christ.
5. There Is Nothing Trite About Prayer.
Tim Challies had an excellent article about the power of prayer. Here’s a money quote:
Recently, prayer has been maligned as an insignificant, wasteful, or even cruel practice as a response to another person’s pain or trial or difficulty. Some of those who pray have been “prayer shamed” into silence, having been told “I’ll pray for you” is a trite, ridiculous, meaningless promise. But it should not be.
As Christians, we believe in the power of prayer. We believe there is nothing trite about prayer. To the contrary, we pray before we act, we pray while we act, and we pray after we act. We make prayer instrumental, not supplemental to all we are and all we do. We make prayer a matter of first priority rather than an afterthought. We have unshakable confidence in its power and effectiveness.
Why? Because for Christians prayer is not merely speaking words into a void. It is not wishing upon a star. It is not summoning positive thoughts to a cold and indifferent universe. Prayer is a child making a request of his loving Father; it is a son claiming his generous birthright; it is a saved one obeying his kind Savior. Prayer is speaking to the Father because of the love of the Son under the mediation of the Spirit. Prayer is taking hold of the promises of God and repeating those promises to the one who made them. How could this be anything but powerful and effective and meaningful?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
– Colossians 3:16, ESV
The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions that are an absolute treasure. I read the following prayer last night:
My heart praises thee for the wonder of thy love in Jesus;
He is heaven’s darling, but is for me the incarnate, despised, rejected,
In him thy grace has almost out-graced itself,
In him thy love to rebels has reached its height;
O to love thee with a love like this!
My heart is stone, melt it with thy love,
My heart is locked, let thy love be the master key to open it;
O Father, I adore thee for they great love in the gift of Jesus,
O Jesus, I bless thee for resigning thy life for me,
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee for revealing to me this mystery;
Great God, let thy Son see in me the travail of his should!
Bring me away from my false trusts to rest in him, and him only.
Let me not be so callous to his merit as not to love him,
so indifferent to his blood as not to desire cleansing.
Lord Jesus, Master, Redeemer, Saviour,
come and take entire possession of me;
this is they right by purchase.
In the arms of love enfold and subdue my willful spirit.
Take, sanctify, use my ever faculty.
I am not ashamed of my hope,
nor has my confidence led me into confusion.
I trusted in thee regarding my innumerable sins,
and thou has cast them behind thy back.
I trusted in thee when evils encompassed me,
and thou broughtest me out into a wealthy place.
I trusted in thee in an hour of distress,
and thou didst not fail me, though faith trembled.
O God of the eternal choice,
O God of the restored possession purchased on the tree,
O God of the effectual call,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
I adore thy glory, honour, majesty, power, dominion for ever.
(The Valley of Vision, pg. 136)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Romans 12:2, ESV
The fetal heartbeat abortion ban bill has been assigned to the Iowa House Human Resources Committee and has yet to be assigned a subcommittee. Similarly, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is still waiting for a floor vote in the Iowa Senate and needs to pass a House committee before March 16th.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): “I am urging the President to reconsider this proposal, not just for its impacts on Iowa, but for the negative consequences this proposal could have on rural communities throughout the nation, America’s farmers, and our national security.”
Education Week published an article this week about how Google has taken over the classroom over the last five years. This raises student data privacy concerns.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s trade policies and sharply criticized his tariff proposals. He is a chief protagonist for free trade in the U.S. Senate representing Nebraska that he says is one of the most pro-trade states in the nation.
Replacing Kennedy with a solid, originalist jurist like the newest member of the Court, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, would dramatically shift the court towards originalism and, hopefully, lead to positive outcomes in some important cases before the Court. Replacing him with the wrong jurist would be a disaster.
Here are five things that I think will interest you as much as they did me.
1. Will there be another Billy Graham?
Thomas S. Kidd writes at First Things:
So maybe there will be another Billy Graham, but he or she will undoubtedly speak in a different cultural mode, and use different media than Graham did. As Graham would remind us, however, God also has a long track record of using people who rely on Him, who work hard and use entrepreneurial ministry methods, and who stay faithful to the traditional teachings of the church. We need not worry about who will fill his shoes, then. If the Kingdom requires one, God will raise up another Billy Graham.
2. A Biblical Theology of Church Discipline
Bobby Jameson writes at 9Marks:
Throughout God’s long and twisting history with his often-wayward people, he has often deployed discipline in an effort to stun us out of sinful stupor. The goal every time was repentance and spiritual renovation. Similarly, when we exclude someone from church membership we are not pronouncing their final fate, but warning them of what it could be. To exclude someone from membership is not to pronounce their final condemnation but to seek to avert it. When we exclude someone, we must continue to work and pray and hope for their repentance, renewal, and restoration.
3. Pastors Deliberately Avoiding Teaching Doctrine?
Jim Eliff writes at For The Church:
For us to even attempt to build churches by minimizing doctrine is a philosophy so far removed from the original purpose of Christ and His apostles that one would wonder if we were in the same movement. How close is this to the prediction of Paul when he said that “they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). It is too close for me.
4. The Gospel Is News, Not Advice
The gospel is news, not advice. Advice is counsel that helps you get something accomplished. News is a report that something has been accomplished for you. It’s already happened in history, and you must respond to it. – Tim Keller
Listen to his sermon from The Gospel Coalition Orange County Regional Conference here.
5. Sex Reassignment Doesn’t Work.
Ryan T. Anderson at The Daily Signal writes:
Sex “reassignment” doesn’t work. It’s impossible to “reassign” someone’s sex physically, and attempting to do so doesn’t produce good outcomes psychosocially.
As I demonstrate in my book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” the medical evidence suggests that sex reassignment does not adequately address the psychosocial difficulties faced by people who identify as transgender. Even when the procedures are successful technically and cosmetically, and even in cultures that are relatively “trans-friendly,” transitioners still face poor outcomes.
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive,'” (Acts 20:35, ESV).