Sam Storms – Taming the Tongue

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I want to draw our attention to the many ways that human beings have distorted some of the most precious of God’s gifts to us.

Take, for example, our minds. God has given us brains and minds that we might understand him and grasp his truth and delight in his greatness. And what have we done with this glorious gift? Paul says in Romans 1 that although all people have known that God exists and what he is like, “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

Another example would be what we have done with our hands. The human hand is a remarkable instrument, given to us by God so that we might subdue the earth and serve one another. But instead men and women use their hands to craft idols of marble and ivory and gold and worship them in the place of the Creator.

Yet another wonderfully glorious gift of God is our eyes. The intricacy of the human eye and its capacity to see is almost beyond description. God gave us eyes that we might behold his glory in creation and that we might see and enjoy one another, but we pervert their God-given purpose by setting our gaze on pornography and carnage and tragedy and ugliness and distorted images.

But there is perhaps no greater sin than what we have done with God’s gift to us of our tongues, our speech, our capacity for words and sentences and singing and sighing. Instead of using our tongues for blessing others we curse them. Instead of using our tongues to sing of God we slander him. Instead of using our tongues to tell of his greatness and his saving grace in Jesus we use them for profanity and silliness and crude and vulgar conversation. I find it highly instructive that when the Apostle Paul turns to a description of the wickedness of mankind he says this:
“Their throat is an open grace; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” (Rom. 3:13-14).

The Bible is full of lengthy descriptions of how we use and abuse human speech, of how we turn it for good and for evil. I can only think of the book of Proverbs and its countless exhortations on how to make godly use of our tongues. But there is perhaps no more explicit and direct portrayal of the power of language and the sins of the tongue than what we find in James 3:1-12. James has already addressed this point. In James 1:19 he exhorted us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” And again in James 1:26 we read, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

One of the marvelous things about this passage is that it requires virtually no explanation. It almost preaches itself, as James piles up one metaphor or analogy upon another. We hardly need to do anything other than simply read the text to grasp its meaning.

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Christina Fox – How the Laments Speak to our Fears

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We had planned the trip for months. I looked forward to seeing God’s wonders on display in the majestic peaks of Northern California. I couldn’t wait to hear the sounds of rushing water and stand beside the towering ancient pines.

After a long hike, we waited for our turn to stand at the rickety metal fence that was the only thing keeping us from falling thousands of feet to the Yosemite Valley below. As soon as I stepped up to the fence, my stomach grew nauseous. Then my head started spinning and all I wanted to do was run the other way. I could barely stay long enough for someone to take our picture.

So Many Fears

We’ve all met fear before. It’s been a ready companion since the day our first parent’s fell into sin and hid from God. We fear all kinds of things, from heights to deadly storms; from debilitating illness to lost jobs; from terror attacks to empty nests; from failure to the unknown future. For some of us, fear is a constant companion, enslaving us, ruling our days and our choices.

Some run and hide, staying as far from what they fear as possible. Others spend their days plotting ways to control what they fear. We search online to find solutions to our fears, only to end up more fearful. In the end, no matter what we do, fear wins the day as it robs us of our joy.

As believers, we know the Bible’s frequent admonitions against fear. We know that God calls us to trust in Him and to depend on Him alone in the face of fear. But the question is, “How?” How do we live in a broken and fallen world where fears surround us on every side? How do we turn to God in the midst of such fears?

Fear and the Psalms of Lament

God is rich in grace; He does not call us to a task without giving us the grace we need to carry it out. He provides this grace through His word which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). One of the most profitable parts of His word–often overlooked, yet full of instruction for the life of faith–are the Psalms of Lament.

Most of us have turned to the Psalms when we are overwhelmed by the cares of this life–and, for good reason. As Calvin noted, the Psalms are an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. They mirror what is happening in our hearts in vivid prose, describing the deep pains of life in ways that we all understand.

The Psalms were not simply beautiful poems but were the songbook for God’s people. The Israelites sang them in worship the way we sing hymns on Sunday morning. They even sang the laments, the darkest of all the Psalms. Such psalms express the hardest and most painful of all emotions that humans feel: sorrow, rejection, despair, and fear.

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Michael Boling – Resisting the Vitriolic Urge

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A trend I have noticed over the past several years since social media has taken hold of society is the tendency for vitriol and biting comments. The unfortunate reality is some of the worst offenders are Christians or those at least professing faith in Christ. Usually the scenario goes something like this:

A post is made on a given topic. If it is in anyway controversial in nature (biggest ones being law/grace, origins, eschatology, gifts of the spirit, or the latest and greatest of flat earth vs. globe models), there are typically two spectrums of responses. Those in agreement with what was posted give the thought a hearty amen. Those in disagreement more often than not resort to some very disturbing name calling and labeling of the opposing viewpoint.

There are certainly instances when heresy is heresy and should be noted as such. With that said, even the noting of heresy can be done in a manner that demonstrates the spirit of loving disagreement. The tactic of denigrating the opposition by lobbing descriptions of them being “idiot”, “morons”, “pathetic”, “stupid”, etc., is not a biblically sound approach and does nothing to help further the conversation towards the discovery and discussion of biblical truth.

Perhaps this vitriol occurs because of the anonymous nature of social media. People have many “friends” on social media but likely have never met many of them in person nor do they have an actual relationship with those individuals. Others who are not friends but who are in the mix of interaction on social media are also more often than not just a profile picture and nothing more. Face to face discussion has been replaced with a post and run type mentality which breeds the rancor and hatred that is far too prevalent on social media outlets.

Maybe it is the desire to be right, the urge to win the battle of wits rather than pursuing actual fruitful discussion with the ultimate goal of arriving at the truth. Maybe we cannot look beyond the confines of our own prideful arrogance to consider that we may actually be incorrect about a subject. Maybe the idea of testing all things and holding fast to what is good as noted in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 frightens us. Maybe we have a root of bitterness that has taken root that spreads its ugly branches more often than we would like to admit.

Discussions can be had, even when it comes to the many hot topics of our day, in a manner that is Christlike in approach. Tearing down others with our speech (or in this case our posts and tweets) is quite frankly not demonstrating the love of God towards our fellow man, even those who just might be teaching heresy. Yes we can show love to Joel Osteen despite his clear aversion to teaching biblical truth. While it is fun to post the funny memes and while it seems satisfying to tell somebody what a complete moron or buffoon they are, this is not how God would have us deal with others, even those who are clearly wrong on points of Scripture.

What does Scripture declare should define out speech and interaction, even when the discussion gets heated? God has much to say about the tongue and our speech towards one another. Here are a few Scriptures to meditate upon should the temptation to lash out arise:

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Matthew 12:33-37 – Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Proverbs 10:19 – When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

James 1:19-20 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

It might behoove many to take a break from social media outlets and to think about the temptation to engage in verbal warfare with others. I know for myself, I am just as guilty of this infraction as the next person. If the vitriolic urge has come upon you, it might be time to take a lengthy break from social media and to spend some time digging into Scripture and letting the Holy Spirit work in your life to rectify and rid yourself of this temptation. Knowing we will have to give an account for every careless word we speak should hopefully give us some food for thought the next time we are tempted to spout off at the mouth, on social media or anywhere for that matter.

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Dan DeWitt – Atheism and the Problem of Evil

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What Is Good?

The biblical explanation of the cosmos is a theme emphasized in the opening verses of Genesis, where each day of creation is stamped with the words “it was good.” But can an unguided world governed by mere chance, as the atheistic worldview suggests, provide any sort of objective foundation or absolute definition of “good”?

If the world is a product of chance, is governed by nothing, and is heading nowhere, then how can we point to some overarching value of goodness? As the prominent atheistic ethicist Kai Nielsen once said, “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view. . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” And if we cannot get to the moral point of view from a purely scientific perspective, then how can an atheist use a moral point of view to reject the existence of God?

5 Minutes of Hell

Many atheists would disagree with Nielsen’s statement. But the real test is whether they can provide an objective foundation for the morality they defend. They may be hanging on—mid air, white-knuckled—to a value system that lacks any sort of real grounding. In this way, their values are entirely wishful thinking. How can there be personal good and evil in an impersonal universe of mere matter and energy? If the universe doesn’t care, then why do you?

Consider two scenes from recent history. In January 2014 a New York based Satanist group submitted a proposal to build a seven-foot statue of Satan at the state capitol of Oklahoma in protest of a monument of the Ten Commandments displayed there. [2] A spokesperson described the statue as a place of serenity and contemplation where children could sit and find inspiration. I doubt I’m the first to regard the mental picture of this scene as over-the-top creepy.

It should be noted, however, that most Satanists, like the group lobbying for the statue, don’t really believe in Satan. Most Satanists are actually atheistic in their outlook, disavowing any spiritual realm. In fact, the group’s spokesperson described Satan as a literary construct and made it clear they don’t believe in some actual embodiment of evil in the world. They are more or less a political group using Satan as an icon to express their desired secularism.

Now, consider another scene that took place a little over a year prior to the proposal for this statue. Only eleven days before Christmas, twenty children lost their lives at gunpoint in a small northeastern town. On the morning of December 14, 2012, at 9:35, a twenty-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and went on a killing rampage before committing suicide at 9:40 a.m. In the five intervening minutes the horrors of hell were on full display in hallways and classrooms filled with teachers, administrators, and little sons and daughters whose parents would never hold them again, or tuck them in at night, or read them another bedtime story. Before these precious children left for school that morning, they likely had breakfast with their families in homes warmly decorated for the holidays. There were probably stockings hanging from the mantle and Christmas trees where gifts would never be opened. No one would have guessed that this day would end in bloodshed. Except for a young man who was busy finalizing his plans and loading his gun.

We all rightly call the act he committed “evil.” It was categorically evil. Psychobabble doesn’t capture our outrage. And even the most secular among us seem willing to adopt biblical terminology in the face of such an atrocity. Every fiber of our humanity screams “evil,” and for good reason. That’s why worldview discussions are not cute intellectual games. We are not playing around. We’re confronted with a real question, and it’s one every thinking person must consider at some point: What worldview can account for the human desire to classify certain actions as truly evil?

To go back to the capitol scenario, imagine if the group had succeeded in building its statue of Satan as a symbol of secularism next to the monument of the Ten Commandments. Two images, two contrasting worldviews. One monument representing a world free from religious explanations, and the other, a world ordered by a moral source. Which of the two gives the ethical framework needed to evaluate the events at Sandy Hook?

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Tim Chester – You Can Change

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What Would You Like to Change?

Maybe you’d choose to change your appearance, or find a partner, or have better-behaved children. Perhaps you’re seeking one more step up the career ladder, or maybe just to get onto a career ladder. Maybe you’d like to be more confident and witty, or maybe less angry or depressed, or less controlled by your emotions.

We all want to change in some way. Some of these changes are good, others not so good. But the problem with all of them is that they’re not ambitious enough. God offers us something more — much, much more!

Broken Image Bearers

In the opening chapter of the Bible we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Genesis 1:27). We were made to be God’s image on earth: to know him, to share his rule over the world, to reflect his glory.

The problem is that this is now a broken image because humanity has rejected God. So we try to live our lives our way, and we make a mess of things. We struggle to be God’s image on earth. We no longer reflect his glory as we should. God’s verdict on humanity is: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We’ve failed to be the image of God we were made to be. We can’t be the people we want to be, let alone the people we ought to be.

God’s Agenda for Change

Enter Jesus, “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4):

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus shows us God’s agenda for change. God isn’t interested in making us religious.

Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn’t interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn’t interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn’t interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means “set apart” or “consecrated.” For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn’t mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God’s glory in and for the world.

Jesus is the perfect person, the true image of God, the glory of the Father. And God’s agenda for change is for us to become like Jesus.

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Ken Ham – What is the Gospel?

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Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel in Genesis is a vital key to unlock a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.

Surely the answer to this question is obvious to the average Christian. The word gospel means “good news.” When Christians talk about the gospel, they are presenting the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4,

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note very carefully how Paul explains the gospel message later in this same passage:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Corinthians 15:12–45).

Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul went to the book of Genesis and its account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus payment for sin, until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from a pastor’s wife. It went something like this: “Our church can’t come to your seminar,’ she said to me.

“Why not?” I replied.

“Well, you insist on taking Genesis as literal history. But Genesis is not that important—it’s not that essential what one believes about Genesis. Why can’t we just agree on the essentials of Christianity?’

“So what do you mean by the essentials?” I asked.

She answered, “The fact that we’re all sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sin. This is what is essential to Christianity. Believing in a literal Genesis is certainly not essential.” She then went on and asked me, “If someone is born again as the Bible defines, but doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis as you do, is he saved and going to heaven?”

“Well,” I replied, “if he is truly born again, even if he doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis, of course he is saved and going to heaven.”

“See,” she blurted out, “Genesis is not essential—what Jesus Christ did on the cross is what is essential to Christianity.”

I then asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead,” she responded.

“Why did Jesus die on the Cross?”

She immediately answered, “For our sin.”

“And, what do you mean by sin?” I inquired.

“Rebellion,” came the answer.

I then asked, “Could you please tell me how you came to define sin as rebellion? Is that your idea or someone else’s idea? I’ve even heard some people define sin as ‘a lack of self-esteem.’ On what basis have you determined sin means rebellion? Where did you get that definition?”

And her response? “I know what you’re trying to do!” she declared. She realized that I had her boxed in. She didn’t want to admit that without Genesis, she could not answer the question. Because the meaning of anything (like sin) is dependent on its origin, you could not define sin without referring to the literal event of the Fall in Genesis. The literal rebellion of Adam, as recorded in Genesis, is the foundation necessary to understanding the meaning of sin.

What was I trying to do? Simply this: to demonstrate that the only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man, Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent, thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 3: Will Others Worship God Because of You?

The Bible says that some will be saved through the witness of our faithfulness. But how does that happen? What makes our living in line with the gospel compelling to nonbelievers? In this lab, John Piper explains how our good deeds win others to Christ.

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 2: Silence the World with Good Deeds

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned, and so they cave to what the world wants. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently.

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned by the world, and so they cave to what the world wants. They ignore the Bible and do whatever society does. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently. He explains how our changed lives are one of the most powerful witnesses to the worth of Jesus Christ.

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