Scripture


I will sing about the Lord’s steadfast love and his justice; I will make music with my mouth and my life (v. 1).

I will think long and hard on the path that is blameless, longing for the help that comes from God so that I might not stray from his ways (v. 2a).

I will live and walk in my home with a heart of integrity; I will be above reproach in my private life (v. 2b).

I will not let my eyes look on anything that is worthless (v. 3a).

I will know nothing of evil, but will hate, reject, and flee from perversity and from those who call me to fall away from God (v. 3b-4).

I will silence those who slander others (v. 5a).

I will not tolerate those with proud looks and arrogant hearts, including the pride in my own heart (v. 5b).

I will open my life to those who are faithful and blameless, surrounding myself with them and seeking to be ministered to by them (v. 6).

I will not put down roots with liars (v. 7).

I will destroy wickedness every morning (v. 8).

(Psalm 101)

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The heart cry of the people of Babel was for their own name (Genesis 11:4). Their blueprints of a tower that reached to the heavens were titled, “The Tower of Babel: A Monument to How Great We Are.” But the destruction of their plans instead showed their weakness, confusion, and sin such that God made a name for himself.

The heart cry of David was for the name of God (2 Samuel 7). He saw his house of cedar, not as a monument to himself, but as a stinging reminder that the ark of God was in a tent, and therefore in David’s eyes God was not receiving the glory he deserved (7:2). God said, “Thanks, but not right now,” to David’s plans for building a house for him, but seeing David’s desire for the name of God, God told him, “I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.” And he would do it by establishing David’s throne forever and sending the Messiah through his line.

David’s response to God’s kindness reveals that his heart cry did not change – he still longed for the name of God to be exalted above his own:

“Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?” (2 Samuel 7:21-23 ESV)

So if we desire to make a name for ourselves, God will scatter us and exalt himself.

And if we desire to make a name for God, he will bless us and exalt himself.

But our desire should not change when he blesses, or we risk turning his making a name for us into a Babel-style idol to self.  Rather, we should see any name we have as an opportunity to speak of the greatness of God and make his name glorious in all the earth.

I have no idea what living for three days in the stomach of a fish would be like, but I can’t imagine it would be enjoyable. So Jonah 2:2 intrigues to me:

I called out of my distress to the Lord,

And He answered me.

I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;

You heard my voice.

This verse comes after Jonah has been swallowed by the fish God had prepared, but before “the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (2:10). I could understand such a triumphant, exultant, thankful tone coming from Jonah’s lips as he kissed the firm ground beneath him. But from the belly of the fish?

Perspective is key – alive in the stomach of a fish is better than dead on the bottom of the sea. Jonah had just been engulfed by the sea and tossed incessantly by the waves. Seaweed had encircled his face and his head throbbed with the pressure of sinking deep in the water. And while none of his cries would have been audible, he was desperately screaming out to God for help. And God heard. He heard the voice of His rebellious prophet, and He answered him! Jonah found himself in the stomach of a fish, and he rejoiced! He sang out a prayer of thanksgiving to God for graciously preserving his life.

Not only did God preserve his physical life, but God was drawing Jonah back to his presence. Chapter one makes it clear that Jonah was doing everything he could, not just to avoid Nineveh, but to go in the opposite direction God desired him to go – he was willfully fleeing “from the presence of the Lord” (1:1, 10). And in God’s immense love, not anger, he sent a storm. He ordained sailors to pick Jonah up and throw him into the foaming sea. And He prepared a great fish. So when Jonah was swallowed by the fish, he was brought to his divinely ordained place of repentance. The fish swallowing Jonah was not judgment; it was a supreme act of grace to a rebellious son.

God’s grace is often found in strange places – places that to other eyes might look like His condemnation. But He prepares great fish to swallow us so that we might call on him from their pitch-black bellies. He places us in places that might otherwise evoke a fist-shake towards heaven, but when He has made it clear that the alternative is the bottom of the sea, away from the presence of the Lord, then we kiss the rod and thank God that we have been swallowed. We fall on our knees in repentance, because the darkness helps us to see that we were willfully and foolishly running from the place we most want to be.

The tongue is powerful, vicious, untamable, and inconsistent. That was the outline from this past Sunday’s sermon on James 3:1-12 from Pastor Tom, and it was very true to the text. What I find so interesting about this passage from James is the lack of practical application. I keep expecting the text to give me one, two, or three steps to taming the tongue. Instead, James tells me that no one can tame the tongue. He relentlessly lists all of the evils of the tongue, and even when he talks about the good words that can come from my mouth, he only uses that as a means of showing the duplicity of the tongue. The closest things to application are verse 1, which says you shouldn’t become a teacher too quickly because you will incur a stricter judgment, specifically in relation to what you say, and verse 10, which simply states that the way we praise God and curse men in the same breath should not be so. But even these applications seem to just highlight the poisonous nature of our speech.

In part, I believe the reason James doesn’t give me “7 Steps to Taming Your Tongue” is because the issue is much deeper than my mouth; it’s in my heart. Jesus very clearly says that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Mark 12:34). So the words that come out of my mouth are a spill over of my heart. Biting sarcasm, crude speech, gossip, and other sinful uses of words have nothing to do with my tongue; they have everything to do with the state of my heart.

As I consider the consistent evil of my speech and its true source, I am challenged to truly confess the sins of my tongue to others as sins of my heart. It is easy to blame sin, especially sins of the tongue, on something besides myself; to say that a person or circumstance drove me to say something I normally would not. But James 3 calls me to be honest with myself, with my wife and kids, and with others, not glossing over the evil in my heart by saying that I let something slip off my tongue, but confessing the sin in my heart towards them that my words have revealed. And the constant destruction that my tongue can cause, coupled with its untamable nature, will give me ample opportunity to see into the depths of my heart, feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess my sin, and grow in Christlikeness. I can be thankful for that.

Whenever I read the book of Acts, I am struck by the parallels between the lives of the early church leaders and the life and ministry of Jesus found in the Gospels. I see it in the way they proclaim the message of the gospel boldly, the way they stand firm and strong in the midst of persecution, the compassion they show to the disenfranchised, the way they heal those in need, and even the way they die (especially with Stephen).

With that in mind, I am always struck by the similarities between Jesus raising of Jarius’ daughter from the dead and Peter raising Tabitha from the dead through the power of Christ. They strike me as similar because of the command given to the one who had died. In Mark 5:41, Jesus says to the girl, “‘Talitha kum!’ (which translated means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up’).” In Acts 9:40, Peter says, “Tabitha, arise.” In Acts, Luke goes to some length to point out the Greek translation of Tabitha’s name, Dorcas, and then uses the two names interchangeably, though he uses the name Tabitha in the command to arise.

One more interesting note is the presence of Peter at both resurrections. I can’t help but imagine Peter speaking the words, “Tabitha, arise,” and having a chill run down his back and a smile come across his face as he remembered hearing Jesus saying words so similar many days prior in Jarius’ house.

I’d say there are some more minor similarities between Mark 5 and Acts 9, but what do you think: am I stretching the parallel? Either way, I pray that all I say, think, and do reflects Jesus as was true with Peter and the early church leaders.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach from Colossians 1:21-23. Paul describes who we were before Christ (v. 21) and what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 22). He then offers a warning in verse 23 – a warning to stay grounded in the hope of the gospel, not moved away into finding security or salvation in anything but Christ. It being Father’s Day, I sought to make a special application of verse 23 to dads, calling us as fathers to not simply look at our own sanctification and rootedness but to ask how we are striving to keep our families rooted and grounded in the truth, not moved away from the hope of the gospel. I tried to be blunt and forthright, because I think we as men like things to be as straightforward as possible, and so I said something like, “Just having children doesn’t make you a father; grounding our children in the truth of the gospel and making sure they do not drift does.”

As we sang the closing song at the end of the first service, I found myself thinking, “I gave the problem, but I offered no solutions.” Granted, we did talk about the role of faith and the active work of God in keeping us holy, blameless, and grounded, but to beat dads over the head with a rebuke and offer no concrete solutions seemed, at the very least, incomplete. With those thoughts and some feedback from my wife, I moved on to the second service and strived to keep the force of the application, but to be a little more encouraging and to offer some practical solutions.

If you, like me, feel called to be a father who grounds his children in the hope of the gospel but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas for both fathers and mothers. I don’t claim to be an authority on the subject, nor do I want to communicate legalism (i.e. you and your children should never watch television or listen to non-Christian music, the only book you are allowed to enjoy is the Bible, etc.), but I just want us to be proactive. If we don’t ground the next generation, they will drift. Taking Paul’s warning in Colossians 1:23 seriously means we will do something; here are my thoughts:

  1. Read God’s Word together as a family

    Maybe at the dinner table, maybe in the morning, maybe before bed – whatever works for your family’s schedule, but everyone should be present. Yes, easier said than done, but worth the effort. And this isn’t an in-depth Bible study – just read!

  2. Pray together

    At meals, before bed, before leaving for work, before going on any car trip. Make it a routine to praise God and seek his help and guidance. Pray for your kids, pray for others, pray for the church.

  3. Listen to gospel-centered music

    Some of this is surely preference, but I love Passion and Sovereign Grace. I’ve heard great stuff about Seeds as well – that’s more kid-focused.

  4. Memorize Scripture

    (Simply imagine me looking guilty – I don’t do this like I should!)

  5. Read God-centered books to your kids

    I’ll take suggestions!

  6. Be the driving force behind your family’s church attendance

    Make it your goal, barring extreme circumstances, to never send your family to church while you stay at home – consider the message it sends

  7. Follow up on their Sunday School lesson

    Ask them what they learned. Look at their take-home paper, and take some of the suggestions for parents if they are offered on the paper.

  8. Have them serve others with you

    In the church, outside of the church, and in every area of life. Show them how being a Christian is something that takes over every aspect of life.

  9. Monitor what they watch and listen to and how much media they take in

    We are to ground our kids in the truth, and also keep them from being drawn away from the truth. What is shaking the foundation of God’s truth in your child’s life? What contrary messages are they hearing? What are you doing to correct false messages or guard them from them? Surely there is a tension between sheltering them and allowing them too much freedom… still learning!

  10. Model

    Surely this is the key, and probably the backdrop to everything listed above. If I let my children see how the hope of the gospel has changed me, how it influences everything I do, how I am striving to be grounded in it, then they will see its value and hold to it. What do our kids see us doing? Are we in God’s Word? Are we devoted to prayer? What’s on the radio and in the stereo? What do our kids find us watching on TV? What books are on our shelves? How do we respond to the stresses of life? What is our attitude towards church? Do we love others as a result of our love for God, or is it just legalism.

These are far from earth-shattering suggestions, and doing them without modeling a heart transformed by such practices will have the opposite effect. Kids will sniff out our hypocrisy. But are we as parents doing these things and others? Are we being transformed by the gospel? If not, how can we be sure our children are being grounded in the truth and not drawn away?

So, what are your ideas? These are from the perspective of a father of a toddler and an infant – the list is far from exhaustive or creative!

In reading John’s account of Lazarus being raised from the dead, it is striking that the focus is totally on Jesus and His power as “the resurrection and the life.” Lazarus never speaks. In fact, in all of Scripture there are no recorded words of Lazarus. He comes out, bound with grave clothes, is loosed, and, except for a couple brief mentions in John 12, this is the last we hear see of him. The focus is on Jesus. So what about Lazarus? What happened during the four days he was dead? Where was he? What did he see? Who did he meet?

I guess I find it all very ironic, especially given the recent rash of books about people’s near-death or death and resurrection experiences. People who may have been dead for minutes or hours (not nearly four days!) return to the land of the living with detailed accounts of heaven or hell that everyone needs to hear about. I’ll admit that it is hard to argue with a person’s experience, and who am I to deny the facts of what they saw? Yet who is right when their visions differ from each other? And what should I infer about the substance of their stories when they conflict with Scripture?

I can understand why such stories are attractive and intriguing – who wouldn’t want to know more about life after death, whether as a warning to unbelievers or an encouragement to God’s elect? But I can’t help but wonder where Lazarus’ book is. I guess Scripture must be complete without it.

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