A Vision of the Lost

If this doesn’t fire you up, your wood is wet.

William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, once shared this vision:

I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightening flashed and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower and break again.

In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.

And I saw out of this dark angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up with it’s summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. And all around the base of this great rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those who were already safe on the platform were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the place of safety.

On looking more closely I found a number of those who had been rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes, boats and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of the sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of the consequences in their passion to “rescue the perishing.” And I hardly know which gladdened me the most- the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks reaching a place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole being was wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.

As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different “sets” or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the people out of the sea.

But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any care- that is any agonizing care- about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes…many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children.

Read the whole vision here.

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I Am Built on Blood

Christians are a people who exist because our Christ has spilled His blood as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. He died the death we deserved and thus paid the penalty for our sins in full. We are a people bought by blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

However, the blood of Christ was not the only blood shed to make us what we are. Kevin Miller explains:

“You and I would not and could not hold faith in Christ today, if many of the early Christians had not marched into the arena or toiled in the mines, unbent and uncompromised… Each time you and I meet a Christian, we are viewing a monument to the unknown early Christian martyrs.

Kevin A. Miller, “Tomb of the Unknown Christians,” Christian History 9, no. 27 (1990): 2.

Thank God for sending His Son to shed His blood for our life and thank Jesus sending His people to shed their blood to bring us the message of His life giving sacrifice.

We are their monument; built on their blood.

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One Practice & Three Counsels to Attack Your Child’s Constant Boredom

If you are like most parents, you often hear your child complain, “I’m bored.” There are various approaches parents take in dealing with their child’s plight, but I found Julie Lowe’s simple response to her children’s boredom intriguing and helpful.

Julie Lowe explains:

We told our children that every time we hear the words, “I’m bored” (and all versions of boredom: “I’m tired”, “Nothing to do”, etc.), we would assign a chore to do. It didn’t take long before the words slipped out and thereafter, my kids appeared to find ways to occupy their time.

But Lowe notes that though this technique may change the behavior of our kids, it won’t get to the more fundamental issues in their heart. In other words, it’ll change the fruit of verbally complaining about boredom, but not the root that continually causes boredom. It’ll erase the symptom, but not the sickness. It’s start, but not an end.

Knowing this, Lowe then gives three counsels for how parents can get at the heart of their frequently bored child.

1) Help Them Exchange Passive Entertainment to Active Engagement

“When left to their own devices, they will often turn first to technology which allows them to be passively entertained rather than actively engaged in a hobby or activity. By spending time on social media, video games, TV or movies, they are, quite literally, entertaining themselves to mindlessness. When there is a moment of silence or inactivity, the adversity of boredom descends upon them and they feel incapable of overcoming it. “

So help them exchange their go-to entertainment for actively engaging hobbies by introducing them to engaging activities like crafts, art, music, building, writing, reading, sports, robotics, and more. For a huge list of actively engaging options, here is a website dedicated to actively engaging hobbies.

2) Help Them Foster the Gift of Stillness

“There is something lost when we do not learn to just sit, to be quiet, swing on a hammock or take a walk without something bellowing in our ear. We all need to stop and smell the roses, experience creation, to cease striving and know that He is God. We need to learn to enjoy such moments as a delight, not a period of boredom. Like us, children need to learn to reflect, contemplate, and meditate on the things of God. How will that happen if we do not endeavor to instill this in our children?”

I personally believe of the best ways to do this is by learning to do it yourself. One of the things I am learning as I watch my fellow adults is that we often have no idea how to sit still. So, before helping your child foster the gift of stillness ask yourself if you even have it! Learn to be without the TV, the phone, or any other amusement device and your kids will pick up on the unique gift it is.

3) Help Them Think Outside of Themselves

“There is a world of need, service, job opportunities, education and life to be lived and they need to be nudged (or sometimes dragged) in the right direction. Teens are not going to wake up one day and feel charitable and ask to go serve in the local food pantry. It requires cultivating generosity and a desire to serve…As parents, we have to be willing to do the hard work of steering our kids towards service and imparting within them a desire to be other-centered.”

What are various family service projects at home, at church, or in your community that you could do with your child? In your example and leading (not just your words), how are you cultivating a servant’s heart in your child?

At the end, Lowe’s final word gives the principal behind the practices, as parents we must carefully study, “what captures their affections and (equip) them to thoughtfully steward their free time.” Find out the things that excite them and help them plan their schedule accordingly.

I encourage you to read her whole post here.

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Accepting Homosexuality May Reveal Bigotry

In a review of two books (one by Matthew Vines and the other by Ken Wilson) that argue for the acceptability of monogamous homosexuality for the Christian life, Tim Keller makes an insightful point about those who change their view about homosexuality after having met homosexual people themselves.

It is worthy of a slow, thoughtful read.

Tim Keller:

Vines and Wilson relate stories of people who were sure that the Bible condemned homosexuality. However, they were brought to a change of mind through getting to know gay people personally. It is certainly important for Christians who are not gay to hear the hearts and stories of people who are attracted to the same sex.

And when I see people discarding their older beliefs that homosexuality is sinful after engaging with loving, wise, gay people, I’m inclined to agree that those earlier views were likely defective. In fact, they must have been essentially a form of bigotry. They could not have been based on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching. They must have been grounded instead on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin.) So I say good riddance to bigotry. However, the reality of bigotry cannot itself prove that the Bible never forbids homosexuality. We have to look to the text to determine that.

So, Christian, what do you believe about homosexuality and why do you believe it? Are your thoughts on sexuality based on bigotry and prejudice or the text of Scripture?

I encourage you to read the whole review here.

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What Sets Christianity Apart?

Herman Bavinck:

The fundamental distinction between Christianity and other religions arises from the fact that in Scripture the initiative in religion is not taken by human beings but by God.

In pagan religions it is human beings who seek God (Acts 17:27). In every way they attempt to bring God down to themselves and into the dust (Romans 1:23), and by all kinds of methods they try to achieve power over God.

But in Scripture it is always God who seeks human beings. He creates them in His image and calls them after the fall. He saves Noah, chooses Abraham, gives His laws to Israel. He calls and equips the prophets. He sends His Son and sets apart the apostles. He will one day judge the living and the dead.

The religions of the nations, on the other hand, teach us to know human beings in their restlessness, misery, and discontent but also in their noble aspirations and their everlasting needs – human beings both in poverty and riches, their weakness and strength. The noblest fruit of these religions produces humanism. But Holy Scripture teaches us to know God in His coming to and search for human beings, in His compassion and grace, in His justice and His love.

(Taken from Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena, p. 327-328)

The thing that sets Christianity apart is the God it worships: the God who comes, seeks, and finds. This is why the symbol of Christianity is not a ladder for man to come to God, but a cross where God came for Man.

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Why Church Hurts

A lot of people get hurt in churches, but that shouldn’t surprise us given what the church is: diverse members that are connected in one body. Christian church folk are truly and spiritually connected with one another and because of that we share our pleasures and pains. The Apostle Paul illustrates the implications:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you”. . . If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:21, 26

Jerry Bridges unpacks this illustration with a needed correction for how we often deal with hurt and pain within church.

Can you imagine the ear making the following comment to the eye? “Say, did you hear about the serious trouble the foot is having? My, my, isn’t it too bad? That foot surely ought to get his act together.” No, no, our bodies don’t behave that way at all! Instead the entire body cries out, “My foot hurts! I feel awful!”

Why does the whole body hurt when only one part is injured? It is because all the parts of the body make up one indivisible whole. And when one part hurts, no matter what the reason, the restorative powers of the entire body are brought to bear on that hurting member. Rather than attacking that suffering part or ignoring the problem, the rest of the body demonstrates concern for the part that hurts. This is the way the body of Christ should function…

Only as we become acutely aware of the truth that we are in fellowship with every other believer — like it or not — will we seek to work out the implications of that fellowship in loving concern and care for each other.

(Taken from True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia [Kindle Locations 672-673])

Only by realizing we are one through Jesus will we begin to act like as one in Jesus.

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Death is the Great Beginning

C.S. Lewis:

‘There was a real railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. ‘Your father and mother and all of you are as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

(Taken from The Last Battle, Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins, 1956), 228.)

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