Comprehending the Meaning Life

“Comprehension comes from God, from knowing and loving him, and those who are separated from his life cannot and will not understand the fundamental reason for living [cf. Romans 1:18-32].” (Thomas Schreiner, “Understanding Truth According to Paul” in Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, Studies in the Pauline Epistles (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 262.)

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RESOURCES TO HELP CARE FOR THOSE BATTLING WITH SAME-SEX ATTRACTION (Resources, Part 2)

LoveIntoLight

Peter Hubbard, Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual, and the Church (Ambassador Int’l, 2013). Hubbard writes from the vantage point of a pastor whose church compassionately embraces those struggling with same-sex attraction. That is not to say they approve of homosexuality. He offers clarity on the situation and fresh hope to battle-weary believers who need grace and truth. He challenges the church to be a loving community where sinners can find strength in living out the gospel together. His prayer, which shapes the entire book, is that “God’s people would be drawn out of the shadows and into the light of Jesus Christ through the love of His people… so we can fight sin and rejoice in God’s powerful grace together.”

 

Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2010). Hill writes from the deep struggles of his battle with same-sex attraction and his understanding of the gospel. His book is most profitable for better understanding the heartache of those struggling with SSA. However, it’s clear that he’s still on a journey of understanding his identity in Christ, though he emphasizes his new identity Washed&Waitingat several points. He embraces the gospel and a life of celibacy, and seeks community in the church. But, he refers to himself throughout the book as a “gay Christian,” which I think is unhelpful and confusing terminology. He’s trying to avoid minimizing the struggle with homosexual feelings, but it would have been better had he referred to himself as “a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction.” For that reason, my recommendation is qualified, but I still think the book has tremendous value for helping the church understand the deep pain and unfulfilled longings of our brothers and sisters struggling with SSA. You might be surprised where you find common ground!

 

Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001). This work is beefy—but one of the most thorough, exegetical and theological treatments of the subject. Gagnon engages both sides of the issue and deals honestly—and faithfully—with the biblical text. If you’re looking for an intensely academic approach to every passage that deals with this topic, then look no further than this robust volume.

ARTICLES

“Ten Ways to Love Your Transgendered Neighbor” by Denny Burk

“Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken” by David Powlison

“How Can the Church Help Those Battling With Same-Sex Attraction?” by Sam Allberry

“What If Your Child is Gay?” by Russell Moore

MEDIA

“Singleness is Not a Curse” a Podcast with Christopher Yuan

“How Can Churches Engage Believers and Unbelievers Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction?” a series of four videos that have very helpful wisdom

“Hope Positive” a ten-minute video of Christopher’s testimony

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by | February 17, 2015 · 10:25 am

RESOURCES TO HELP CARE FOR THOSE BATTLING SAME-SEX ATTRACTION (Resources, Part 1)

During his time at our church, Christopher Yuan mentioned two resources that he most recommended for understanding same-sex attraction and how the gospel speaks to it. I have read and summarized the major thrust of each of these books in hopes that you’ll put them on your reading list. They are worth your time and will strengthen believers in better understanding an often neglected and misunderstood arena of struggle.

rosariaRosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith (Crown & Covenant, 2012): In her brief memoir, Rosaria recounts her unexpected and emotionally-traumatic conversion. As a tenured professor at Syracuse University, she proudly fought for women’s and LGBT rights through academic pathways. But, an unexpected letter from a gracious Presbyterian pastor (and a critical book project on the Religious Right) led to friendship and eventually, conversion. But the journey was hardly a smooth one! In this gripping testimony, Rosaria peels back the layers of her mind so that you can see the tumultuous journey of a woman caught in the struggle to understand her own heart and the transforming power of Christ. She speaks boldly of the ugliness of sin and the beauty of the gospel. But, the best take-away for me was that she painted a vivid (though, tactful and appropriate) portrayal of the thoughts and feelings of being a homosexual as Christ turned her world upside down. Her story helped me to stand in her shoes and better understand the painful, yet-life-giving journey that takes place when Christ saves His people from sexual sin.

samSam Allberry, Is God Anti—Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction (The Good Book Company, 2014): In this primer, Sam analyzes what the Bible says about homosexuality, as well as sex, marriage, and singleness. He begins by sharing his own experience of coming to know Jesus, and how that knowledge intersected with a growing awareness of his own sexuality. He stays tethered to the gospel throughout the book and boldly articulates its implications for all believers, including those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). After presenting a biblical case for sex and marriage, he addresses the Bible and homosexuality, noting that the Bible is not fixated on homosexuality. In fact, God condemns several other sins found in Sodom just as much (if not more) than homosexuality. All sin is serious to God, including sexual sin. As sinners reject God, they find themselves craving all sorts of perversions, whether heterosexual or homosexual. While such sins are serious and evidence of God’s judgment, they are nevertheless escapable through the grace of God. Christians who are struggling with SSA can find strength in the power of Christ as they navigate those confusing waters. He offers sympathy and hope as he points his fellow strugglers toward Jesus Christ; and calls them to holiness through living in spiritual community while embracing singleness and abstinence. He also calls the church to be a place of spiritual healing and intimate community for those struggling with SSA. The book is brief and informative, yet loaded with practical, gospel truth! It’s worth your time.

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A Christian Response to Homosexuality (Perseverance, Singleness, & Hope-filled Parenting)

A few weekends ago, our church hosted Christopher Yuan, a professor from Moody Bible Institute. Before he encountered Christ, Christopher lived for himself; his life involved dealing drugs and indulging homosexual desires. Now, as a Christ follower, Christopher is not immune to the temptations that still accompany his former desires, but he seeks to please Christ rather than himself. He is committed to a life of holiness that involves celibacy and singleness, choosing to fight against sinful desires rather than condoning or embracing them. He majors on the gospel and gives practical insight in how it equips the church to apply the gospel to all forms of sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual perversions. I highly recommend each of the following messages, but would commend the last one to you if you’re only able to listen to one!

Overview of the weekend

You can listen to the audio of their teachings by following these links:

  • Session 1: Testimony & Redeeming Biblical Singleness
    • This session includes a testimony of Chris’ radical conversion and insight into a life of singleness. He calls the church to be a place that values singleness and integrates singles into the life of the church family.
  • Session 2: Ordinary Parents, Extraordinary Father
    • This session provided perspective and counsel for parents of wayward children. The Yuans share their story and what they learned about trusting God and displaying His love through years of difficulty with their son Christopher.
  • Session 3: Running the Race
    • This session emphasized the perseverance we need to live the Christian life faithfully. He gives examples of how we can win the fight with indwelling sin that threatens to draw us away from Christ.
  • Sunday Morning Service: A Christian Response to Homosexuality
    • This session was included a powerful testimony, accompanied by how the church should respond to those dealing with homosexual thoughts, feelings, or behavior.

10min Video Testimony:

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AudioBook: Everyone’s A Theologian

This month Christian Audio is offering a free audio download of R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s A TheologianHis book is a basic systematic theology, which is an overview of Bible doctrine. While I haven’t read it, I highly recommend it based on other books by R.C. Sproul that I have read. Download Here!

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PROOF: The Power, Freedom, and Joy of God’s Amazing Grace

I appreciated this fresh articulation of the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace–from start to finish.

PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy P. Jones (Zondervan, 2014).

P-Planned Grace: Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. God planned to adopt particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place (John 10:11-18; Ephesians 1:4-12).

R-Resurrecting Grace: Everyone is born spiritually dead. Left to ourselves, we will never choose God’s way. God enables people to respond freely to his grace by giving them spiritual life through the power of Christ’s resurrection (John 5:21; Ephesians 2:1-7).

O-Outrageous Grace: God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

O-Overcoming Grace: God works in the lives of his chosen people to transform their rebellion into surrender so taht they freely repent and recognize Christ as the risen King (John 6:44, 65; Ephesians 2:4-10).

F-Forever Grace: God seals his people with his Holy Spirit so that they are preserved and persevere in faith until the final restoration of God’s kingdom on the earth (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).

*Excerpted from pp. 20-21.

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A Culture of Grace

Gospel truth produces gospel change. At least, it should. In the following article “Justification vs. Self-Justification”, Ray Ortlund, Jr. explains how doctrine shapes church culture–“grace-justification” should produce an atmosphere of grace and acceptance.

Highlights: We are justified by faith in Christ; He receives our punishment for sin and we receive His reward for righteousness. But, “self-justification is the deepest impulse of the human heart”. We intellectually embrace justification by faith, but functionally we live by self-justification.

We desire to save ourselves… We judge others who live by different standards… We compare ourselves to others (who are worse) in order to justify our sins… We fear man–insecurity, anxiety, etc… We manipulate and condemn… all for the sake of self-promotion and self-validation.

“The doctrine of grace-justification… builds… and protects a culture of grace-justification.”

Check out Ray’s article for further elaboration: Justification versus Self-Justification

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Daily thoughts: Titus 1:1

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (ESV)

The Apostle states both the nature of this specific writing to Titus and the Spirit-breathed nature of all Scripture: it is for the faith of every believer. So, it is with great encouragement that we take up the Bible and read it each day, knowing that it was written for the sake of our faith. Take heart, Christian, as we read and study this word to Titus that our faith was in view, not just his.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your gracious gift of the Word to me. Thank you for caring about the faith of me, thousands of years after the fact. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for guiding the apostle to write these words for my benefit, for my faith. Open my eyes to this glorious truth as I seek to find You in the Word.

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Compassion Curriculum (for Special Needs Adults)

Paul and Jill Miller have written a great curriculum to help special needs adults understand the compassion of Jesus!

ResourcesLeader’s Manual and Student Manual; Free Starter Pack Download

Publisher’s Description

Compassion is at the very center of Jesus’ being—it is the main way that he relates to people. Jesus shows compassion by incarnating, by stepping into other people’s shoes. It is an entirely different way of approaching people—one that begins by looking.

In this 19-session study, students will learn:

  • How Jesus sees people and shows compassion
  • How our hearts can prevent us from showing compassion
  • How to share Jesus’ compassion with others

Come see the beauty of how Jesus looks, sees, and moves toward people like you and me.

Additional resources can be found at seeJesus.net.

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The Chronicles of Narnia–Free Audio

For those Narnians out there, here’s a great resource to listen to the series online. Unfortunately you cannot directly download the audio, but you can live-stream it for free or download it via itunes podcast.

Lion of Narnia

Link: The Chronicles of Narnia AUDIO

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Free AudioBook: “Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God” (Packer)

Each month, ChristianAudio provides a free download for those who subscribe to their email newsletter (sent only occasionally).

This month the free audiobook is J.I. Packer’s Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God. It’s one of the best resources on the topic of evangelism, and as you might assume, holds a high view of God’s sovereign grace as the initiator of salvation and man’s gospel proclamation as the means that God often uses to bring sinners to faith and repentance. Check it out… after all, it’s free!

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by | May 1, 2014 · 1:54 pm

From the Perspective of a Toddler: Absolutely Hilarious

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve written on this blog. After a necessary reprieve, I’m planning to start writing again. But, as an initial start, I wanted to share a blog post that totally made my day! Enjoy…

Backstory: On Twitter, I follow a lady who writes quippy little posts about her toddler’s life, from his perspective. It’s almost always hilarious. Here’s an “open letter” from her toddler to another child that he punched on the playground. It’s worth your time… Read it as if the Toddler is writing it and you’ll be laughing:

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When we are anxious

Peter’s letter contains one of the most quoted and loved verses on anxiety “Cast all your anxieties (burdens) on him, for he cares for you.”

This is wonderful good news to the person who is anxious and worrying but the Word of God does not start with that thought. Instead we find strongly worded command to “humble yourselves, therefore, before the mighty hand of God.” This is key to helping combat worry and anxiety. It is the lesson learned by Job and it is here summed up: humble yourself before the mighty God.

This is the rock solid assurance for our souls, that there is a mighty Creator, a Lord of heaven and earth, bigger and stronger than all of the creation. He is exalted and glorious wonder, seated on a throne, surrounded by thousands of angels and creatures declaring and singing his praises.

When we begin here, at the throne of God, we will be humbled before him. When we recall the deeds and character of God we will bow in humiliation. And it is here that our sorrows, anxieties, and burdens are cast at his feet. The same mighty God who spoke the universe into being is the one who cares for us. Cares so much that he “has called us to eternal glory in Christ” and chosen us of all the created things to be his beloved.

This will begin to spread the light of the Gospel hope into your burdens and anxieties. This will be a lasting cure for the sinful tendency to worry and fret. The God of the universe, enthroned in light, has redeemed you. Rest in him and be well.

 

-joe

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LOVE: When the Lord Moves the Mountains to Meet His Own Wherever We Are

“Waiting Here for You” by Christy Nockels

“Lord I Need You” by Chris Tomlin

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Interesting Articles

Here’s a convicting thought: 

If God should have no more mercy on us than we have charity to one another, what would become of us? —Thomas Fuller

Mark 11:20-25 “As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’ And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Ordinary Faithful Pastors: Here are a few thoughts from Ray Ortlund, Jr. on his late father, a faithful, ordinary pastor.

Growth in Christ: Spiritual growth is inevitable, sometimes slow and imperceptible, but it’s a certainty for anyone who is in Christ because the Master Builder completes everything that He begins.

Personal Purgatory: Praise God that He does not treat us this way, and that He removes the condemning guilt of our sin.

Ge0-Tracer: An entertaining Google Maps game.

Having a Servant’s Heart: A story from the life of D.L. Moody.

 

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Articles: Recent Readings

Here are a few articles that I found worth my time:

Are you more of a proud or broken person? This chart gives some insightful perspective on pride and humility.

Tips for Leading Small Teams: This article provides beneficial insight into managing teams well, whether in a professional or ministry context. It’s worth a quick scan.

Falling in Love Everyday: This was a sad article, but interesting in how an amnesiac retained his love for his wife.

Is the Internet the Source of Our Problems: Interesting article about a dude who disconnected for a year.

Are you busy? Do you have to be?: Some thoughts on being “busy” all the time.

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Miscellanies

Here are a few articles that I have found worth my time in recent weeks:

“The Great Man Hunt”: Guys, we need to ‘man-up’ and start becoming men of maturity and integrity who have holy ambition for the things of God–including being worthy and able to lead godly young women. Pursue Jesus. Pursue a woman. Pursue well.

“Marriage Expectations”: We all have unreasonable, inflated expectations. We’re tend toward the extremes of being either idealistic or pessimistic–but healthy, gospel-reflecting relationships involve having the right expectations.

Defining Biblical LoveWhat Did You Expect? (Part 1) & What Did You Expect (Part 2). Here are two excellent descriptions of real, biblical love as seen in the struggle of marriage, as two sinners fight the good fight and apply God’s grace to one another.

Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken: Here David Powlison addresses an increasingly pervasive and destructive topic. He identifies the heart “conditions” underlying sexual sin, and provides the light of gospel truth for finding victory.

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Strength of His Name

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Unending Mercy

His grace is greater than all of our sin–Praise God!

Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions. According to Your lovingkindness remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord… For Your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity for it is great. (Psalm 25:6, 11)

Martin Luther:

“This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness,

not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. 

The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road.

All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”

 

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Writing Advice

I appreciated this “advice” from a seasoned writer, even if I don’t always heed it:

“These really are the keys to writing blog posts, op-ed pieces and columns, and even testimonies to Congress:

  • to speak fearlessly from the heart,
  • get to the point immediately,
  • keep the message simple and focused,
  • and use the fewest words you can.” [1]

Boom… goes the Dynamite!

_______

[1] Vivek Wadwha “My Secrets How I Became a Prolific Writer and Learned to Get Beyond School Essays” (emphasis added).

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