Michael Boling – Thou Shalt Not Be Snarky!

“Thou shalt not be snarky.” Okay, I will admit that is not actually listed word for word in the Ten Commandments. Or is it?

We do find commands about honoring our father and mother (item number 4). Additionally, Jesus noted in Matthew 22:37-40, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

I would submit that being snarky is likely something not under the umbrella of loving God or our neighbor. After all, the definition of snarky is being “sharply critical, cutting, or snide.” Are those attributes of godly love we find listed in Scripture? Definitely the answer to that question is a resounding and reverberating no!

Love is noted as being patient, kind, does not dishonor others, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Being snarky does the complete opposite of biblical love.

The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Being snarky is anything but the Fruit of the Spirit.
If a hallmark of the believer is one who loves God and loves their neighbor according to the definition of biblical love and the Fruit of the Spirit, then being snarky needs to be eradicated from our lives. There simply is no place for it whatsoever.

Admittedly, the tongue is the source of great evil. Cutting remarks, jokes at the expense of others, and being sharply critical of others (i.e. the speck in another’s eye while there is a giant redwood tree in your eye) are far too easy actions. Habitual snarky behavior becomes almost second nature. Perhaps at times we don’t intend to be mean, but the nature of snarky comments and actions is just that, namely an attempt to belittle another in an effort to elevate oneself.

All these little one-liners that bring down others and destroy and semblance of constructive conversation and relationships are made all the more easy by social media. Just log on to Twitter and see hashtag this or that or see the latest meme on Facebook. That which seems as nothing more than a funny picture, joke, or comment is actually a snarky and ungodly response to our fellow man.

I think the best way to rid ourselves of this nasty behavior is to follow the wisdom of James 1:19-21 which states, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and every expression of evil, and humbly receive the word planted in you, which can save your souls.”

To put is simply, hush your mouth before it gets you in trouble and perpetuates habitual snarky behavior. Being snarky is nothing more than moral filth.

Think about it!

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Charles Spurgeon – First Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love” — Galatians 5:22.

The worst enemy we have is the flesh. Augustine used frequently to pray, “Lord, deliver me from that evil man, myself.” All the fire which the devil can bring from hell could do us little harm if we had not so much fuel in our nature. It is the powder in the magazine of the old man which is our perpetual danger. When we are guarding against foes without, we must not forget to be continually on our watch-tower against the foe of foes within. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” On the other hand, our best friend, who loves us better than we love ourselves, is the Holy Spirit. We are shockingly forgetful of the Holy Ghost, and therein it is to be feared that we greatly grieve him; yet we are immeasurably indebted to him: in fact, we owe our spiritual existence to his divine power. It would not be proper to compare the love of the Spirit with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so as even by implication to set up a scale of degrees in love; for the love of the regenerating Spirit is infinite, even as is the love of the redeeming Son. But yet for a moment we will set these two displays of love side by side. Is not the indwelling of the Spirit of God equal in loving-kindness to the incarnation of the Son of God? Jesus dwelt in pure manhood of his own; the Holy Spirit dwells in our manhood, which is fallen, and as yet imperfectly sanctified. Jesus dwelt in his human body, having it perfectly under his control; but, alas, the Holy Spirit must contend for the mastery within us, and though he is Lord over our hearts, yet there is an evil power within our members, strongly entrenched and obstinately bent on mischief. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Our Lord Jesus dwelt in his body only for some thirty years or so; but the blessed Spirit of all grace dwelleth in us evermore, through all the days of our pilgrimage; from the moment when he enters into us by regeneration he continueth in us, making us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

To continue reading Charles Spurgeon’s booklet, click here.

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Eric Davis – Love & Irritability

A young baby having a fit on the ground crying and making a pout face

It was a typical night waiting tables in the fine dining room of the country club. Napkins were creased, flowers centered, and tables angled just right. Then my manager came to me with a warning I’ll never forget.

“Ok, Eric. Mr. So-and-so has a reservation tonight at 6pm.” Since I was newer, I did not know Mr. So-and-so. “You need to be warned about a few things. He doesn’t handle it well if things are not done his way.” The dining room manager proceeded to list a myriad of aesthetic and culinary requirements for Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience. The napkin had to be this way. The waiter had to approach him and his table a certain way. The water had to be poured in a particular manner. He had to be addressed in a certain way and tone. The food had to be set with a particular method. From start to finish, Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience came with several fiery hoops through which the dining staff must flawlessly leap. I was amazed. Working for a bit in fine dining, I was familiar with customer preferences and particularities. But this exceeded them all. “And if you do it wrong,” my manager warned, “you will anger him.”

As bad as all that is, I see too much of Mr. So-and-so in myself in various ways.

“Love…is not easily provoked” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).

Often we think of love in terms of a feeling or emotion. But here, God describes it as a demeanor in which we are not easily provoked towards potentially irritating people and circumstances. This is tough. Life is never lived in the sterile confines of a sinless, utopian laboratory well-removed from the Curse’s numerous provocations. This side of heaven, we are either about to be provoked, being provoked, just having been provoked, or some combination of the three. Everything inside and outside of us has the potential to provoke in one way or another.

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Richard Steele – The Duties of Husbands and Wives

THE DUTIES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33

I. Introduction

Marriage is the foundation of all society, and so this topic is very important. Explaining marital duties to you is much easier than persuading you to do them. Conform your will to Scripture, not vice versa. Take Ephesians 5:33 to heart.

1. The Connection

“Nevertheless” is a transition from the spiritual reality of Christ’s relationship to the church. It either means that in spite of the unattainable ideal, strive to attain it, or because of the noble example, imitate it, in your relationship with your spouse.

2. The Direction

A. The universal obligation of it

“Let every one of you,” no matter how good you are or how bad your spouse. All husbands are entitled to their wives’ respect, whether they are wise or foolish, intelligent or slow, skillful or clumsy. All wives are entitled to their husbands’ love, whether beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, submissive or rebellious.

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Joel Beeke – The Puritans on Marital Love: Introduction

Edward Taylor (c. 1642–1729), a pastor, physician, and poet of Puritan New England, wrote, “A curious knot God made in Paradise…. It was the true-love knot, more sweet than spice” (“Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children,” in The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald E. Stanford, abridged ed. [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963], 344). The writings of the Puritans are sprinkled with declarations of the sweetness of marital love. By “sweet” and “sweetness” they meant to describe “a pleasant or gratifying experience, possession or state; something that delights or deeply satisfies” (Webster’s Dictionary). They delighted in the love of God and in every form of love commanded by God among mankind. In particular, they rejoiced in the love shared by husband and wife, and called married couples to love each other romantically, wholeheartedly, and perseveringly.

This may come as a shock to twenty-first-century minds; not many people today would use “Puritan” and “love” in the same sentence. Though evangelicals have become much more aware of the positive heritage of the Puritans, thanks to scholars such as J. I. Packer and his book, A Quest for Godliness, and literature produced by publishing houses such as Banner of Truth Trust and Reformation Heritage Books, the common cultural perception of the Puritans remains negative, a perception informed only by what the Puritans opposed. One prominent dictionary defines the noun “Puritan” first as “a member of a Protestant group in England and New England in the 16th and 17th centuries that opposed many customs of the Church of England,” and second, “a person who follows strict moral rules and who believes that pleasure is wrong.” We are quick to overlook that fact that perhaps the most well-known sentence ever written by the Puritans is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1).

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John Piper – Love Her More, Love Her Less: Living for God’s Glory in Marriage

My main point is simple: If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage.

The assumption behind the topic and behind the main point is that God is ultimate and marriage is not. God is the most important reality in the universe. Marriage is less important — far less important, infinitely less important. God is unimaginably great and infinitely valuable and unsurpassed in beauty. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).

Therefore, God is absolute reality. We are not. The universe is not. Marriage is not. We are derivative. The universe is of secondary importance, along with everything in it. The human race is not the ultimate reality nor the ultimate value nor the ultimate measuring rod of what is good or what is true or what is beautiful. God is. God is the one ultimate absolute in existence. Everything else exists by him and for him.

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Michael Boling – Building Blocks for Growing in Faith

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For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

We often describe our walk with God as a journey or better yet, as a process of growth. We are called to be like a tree firmly planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). The righteous are noted as one who will “flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon (Psalm 92:12). In Matthew 7, Jesus noted the need to bear good fruit. All these passages speak of growth in the life of the believer. A tree grew from a seed. It did not stay simply as a seed planted in the ground. Furthermore, its ability to flourish was and continues to be dependent on a firm root structure that survives by drinking from the fountain of living water.

Peter picks up on this important concept in his second epistle. He begins chapter two by noting how we have obtained faith through the righteousness of God and through Yeshua. Peter then declares that is through God that we have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness. Also noted is the expectation that through those marvelous gifts, we will be a people who pursue giving glory to God through a life that is virtuous (i.e. a life of modesty, purity, and obedience).

If we stopped right there, we certainly have quite a bit upon which to chew. What a blessing it is to be counted a child of God. But Peter does not stop there. He moves on to provide a list of attitudes, behaviors, and perspectives on life that are built on the foundation of faith.

The first element we are to add to the building block of faith is that of virtue. There are a lot of passages in Scripture that speak of virtue. We are instructed about the virtuous woman in Proverbs. The term used by Peter is the Greek noun aretē, which simply means to be someone devoted to moral excellence and purity.

Second, Peter exhorts us to add knowledge to virtue and faith. This makes perfect sense. Without knowledge of how to be pure in heart and how God defines in His Word what moral excellence looks like, we are frankly left up to our own opinion and devices. The Greek word for knowledge used by Peter is gnosis, a term that can and does reflect a general knowledge of something or someone. I believe Peter is referring to something more than just a passing knowledge of God. He is referring to gnosis as being related to a deeper understanding of the things of God, namely rooted in a personal relationship with our Creator. We should desire to grow in knowledge and in relationship.

Next on Peter’s list is that of self-control. Being a person who exudes self-control demonstrates maturity in your life. The Greek noun Peter uses is egkrateia, a term that describes someone who “masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites”. This is not an easy task. Self-control, most notably in the area of the tongue, is a virtue for which many of us struggle mightily. Fundamental to having self-control is knowing what we are to have self-control over. Without a desire to live a virtuous life and to grow in the knowledge of the things of God, growing in the area of self-control will be quite difficult, if not impossible.

The fourth element Peter notes is that of perseverance/patience. In the “have it now” society in which we live, patience is a virtue that is often missing. Scripture repeatedly calls us to persevere. Those who count it joy to endure through trials and tribulations are extolled. A helpful definition I ran across of how perseverance is defined in the New Testament is that it is “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings”. Notice how this definition fits nicely with the flow of what Peter has outlined thus far. One who perseveres is rooted in faith and piety, in other words, the first two elements noted by Peter.

Peter next notes we are to add godliness to perseverance. By godliness, Peter is describing reverence and respect towards God. The Lord’s Prayer states “Hallowed be thy Name”. When we have reverence towards God, we are recognizing His status as Creator. Furthermore, to hallow the name of God is described quite well by the Puritan author George Swinnock in the below quote:

“Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of his majesty. … It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverenceth his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraceth his goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object, and pitcheth all his affections upon him.”[1]

A shift takes place by Peter as he next describes a more horizontal aspect of growth, that of brotherly kindness. This is a familial term denoting love exhibited by the believer for their fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. This is far more than a firm handshake or hug before fellowship with a fellow sojourner.

Thomas Brooks aptly describes what this brotherly love looks like in practice:

“Actuated by the same principles, cherishing the same hopes, animated by the same prospects, laboring under the same discouragements, having the same enemies to encounter, and the same temptations to resist, the same hell to shun, and the same heaven to enjoy, it is not strange that they should love one another sincerely and often with a pure heart fervently. There is a unity of design, a common interest in the objects of their pursuit which lays the foundation for mutual friendship and which cannot fail to excite the “harmony of souls.” The glory of God is the grand object which commands their highest affections and which necessarily makes the interest of the whole the interest of each part, and the interest of each part the interest of the whole. There are no conflicting interests and there need be no jarring passions. In a common cause which in point of importance takes the place of every other and all others, the affections of the sanctified heart are one. The Lord Jesus has given peculiar emphasis to the duty of brotherly love, by constituting it the easy and decisive standards of true godliness. It is by this standard that His disciples are to judge of themselves.”[2]

Note again how this description fits perfectly into the flow of thought outlined by Peter. True godliness is exhibited in brotherly love. Think about that for a bit and examine how you are committed to the pursuit of godliness and the building up of one another towards love and good deeds as noted by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Don’t just hug your brother and move on with your day. Remember your collective commitment to the faith, the reality we are the body of Yeshua, and that we are to be pursuing a common cause, namely glorifying God and declaring through word and deed the message of the gospel.

Finally, the icing on the cake if you will noted by Peter is the need for love. This is no generic love. It is agape love, one that exhibits a personal relationship of affection towards one another and that recognizes we are to care for the needs of our fellow man all for and to the glory of God. As Paul so clearly reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love (agape love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” We are nothing but annoying noise if love and affection are not part of our life.

Our walk with God must involve growth in these areas outlined by Peter. In fact, we are informed “they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Furthermore, those who lack these traits are described as being nearsighted to the very point of absolute blindness. Being spiritually blind is not a good place to be so may we all meditate on the words of Peter and may we have a passion for growing in the faith in a manner that exhibits maturity in the traits outlined in 2 Peter 1:5-9.

References:
[1] George Swinnock, The Works of George Swinnock, Volume 1 (London: James Nichol, 1868), 31.
[2] http://www.gracegems.org/Books2/traits16.htm

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Donny Friederichsen – If It Makes You Happy

Donald Friederichsen

A discernible pattern has emerged in the wake of recent events. A particular tragedy is perpetrated by a person of one community upon people of another community. The life of one who bears the image of God is wantonly snuffed out. One group of people is allegedly violated by an outdated or oppressive system. A protest for justice forms. Commentators and pundits try to explain who is really at fault and what needs to change. The solution is consistently summarized in one word…Love. Profile pics are changed. Statuses are updated. Social media activism is fully engaged. And with great intentions, everyone seems to agree that what we really need is love. Love is love! We might rightly respond to this ambiguous appeal for “love” with the ever relevant words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Love” is bandied about as the answer to every societal ill. Every problem is met with the call to love. Racism, sexism, classism, terrorism, or whatever “-ism” that gets thrown out, the answer is love. What makes this solution so attractive and also so dangerous is that there is quite a bit of truth to it. If rightly understood, love is the answer to these problems. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? It is rare for the idea of love to be rightly understood. Often it is reduced to emotional or sentimental tripes that can be easily shared, retweeted, pinned, or liked.

What is popularly understood as love? The popular notion of “love” seems to be something that more readily resembles “happiness.” If something makes me happy then it is good, not just preferentially but also morally and ontologically. And whatever that good is, it must be celebrated and embraced by all people. This is how love and the modern notion of tolerance become so intertwined. Today, the idea of tolerance requires that you never question anyone’s pursuit of happiness but must only celebrate it. “Love,” (in its late-modern form) therefore, is the unhindered pursuit of happiness, and tolerance is the cheering on of those pursuing happiness. And if we just loved like that, then all our problems would be solved–or so we are constantly hearing.

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Tim Challies – 4 Marks of a Godly Husband’s Love

Rings

“Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25a). On the one hand it is such a simple statement, a simple command. Simply love. On the other hand there is not a husband in the world who would say that he has mastered it. Behind the simple command is a lifetime of effort, a lifetime of growth. How is a husband to love his wife? What is the kind of love that he owes her? I am tracking here with Richard Phillips as he explains in his new commentary on Ephesians.

A self-sacrificing love. A husband’s love is self-sacrificing. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Every husband knows that he is called to love his wife to such a degree that he would willing to die for her. But God calls for far more than this. “It is easy for men to think of dying dramatically—and bloodily—for our wives in some grand gesture. But what Paul specifically has in mind is for husbands to live sacrificially for their wives. This means a dying to self-interest to place her needs before your own. It means a willingness to crucify your sins and selfish habits and unworthy character traits. I remember a husband who told me he had always thought that if a man came into the house with a knife to attack his wife, sure, he would be willing to die defending her. ‘Then I realized,’ he said, ‘that emotionally and spiritually, I am that man who assaults my wife and threatens her well-being. What God calls me to do is put my own sinful self to death’.” Exactly so. You would die for your wife, but will you live for her?

A redeeming love. A husband’s love is, like Christ’s love, redeeming. Christ “gave himself up for [the church], that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” “If we follow this progression we see the Christian gospel in terms of Christ’s preparation of a bride for himself.” Christ is actively sanctifying his people through the word to cleanse us from sin and make us holy. Paul now says that a husband is to see this as his model for the way he relates to his bride. “As Christ’s love redeems us for glory, a husband’s love ought to be directed toward the spiritual growth of his wife. Notice, too, that this ministry is associated with a husband’s words. The Greek word used here is thema, which signifies actual words, rather than the more common logos which speaks of a message in general. This makes the point of how important a husband’s words are to his wife. Far from badgering or tearing down his wife with his speech, loving husbands are to remind their wives of God’s love and minister for their blessing and increased spiritual maturity.”

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Thomas Watson – How May We know Whether We Love God?

NPG D29707; Thomas Watson by John Sturt, after  Unknown artist

He who loves God desires His presence. Lovers cannot be long asunder, they soon have their fainting fits, for lack of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him. David was ready to faint away, when he had not a sight of God. “My soul faints for God.” Psalm 84:2

He who loves God, does not love sin. “You who love the Lord—hate evil.” Psalm 97:10. The love of God—and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God. He who loves God, has an antipathy against sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against sin. By this try your love to God. How can he say he loves God, who loves sin—which is God’s enemy?

He who loves God is not much in love with anything else. His love is very cool to worldly things. The love of the world eats out the heart of piety; it chokes holy affections, as earth puts out the fire. He who loves God—uses the world but chooses God. The world engages him—but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, “God, my exceeding joy!” Psalm 43:4. “God is the cream of my joy!”

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