Thy Blood Was Shed For Me (Because there was no other way)

Matthew Smith says it for me, but I know where he’s coming from. I have had this album, All I Owe, for awhile but it ministers to me greatly, particularly this song. Treasure Jesus.

One of the subtle ways I avoid God is by pretending that I’m not very sinful, or that sin is a minor issue in my life that I will overcome soon. I find myself taking comfort in thinking that I am a pretty good guy. But this is, of course, a total lie. The only thing I can cling to for hope in this world is the fact that Jesus shed his blood for me. Every virtue or bit of righteousness I try to create for myself will ultimately betray me, but Jesus’ blood has bought an inheritance for me that is kept in heaven, where it will never fade or perish (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Let the world their virtue boast and works of righteousness
I a wretch undone and lost am freely saved by grace
Take me Savior as I am
Let me lose my sins in Thee
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

Full of truth and grace Thou art and here is all my hope
False and foul as hell my heart to Thee I offer up
Thou wast given to redeem
My soul from iniquity
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

Nothing have I Lord to pay nor can Thy grace procure
Empty, send me not away for Thou knowest I am poor
Dust and ashes is my name
My all is sin and misery
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

Calvinism: The thing people fear in their churches

What is the most detestable thing a person can imagine happening to their church? A disregard of the scripture? A lack of mission? Triviality or a worship of culture? Moral corruption among church leaders or an unloving attitude? A lack of worship?

No, it seems that a great many fear the teaching of Calvinism. That is, the five points of Calvinism. The doctrines of grace. These things:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the saint

That is, you believe that:

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

Radical stuff, that Calvinism. Goodness knows where that could lead.

Not sure? Here are some things you could read to maybe give you a better idea.

At best we are just men — and at worst

Thinking of the celebrity news of the past week and what it means in my life, I come away thinking that it is futile to put your trust in men because, in the end, they are just men. Men are fallible, born to sin and not perfect. Only Jesus is. The good words of Kevin DeYoung at DeYoung, Restless and Reformed are good to review and as he considers the case of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, although they apply across the board:

The person who thinks they are immune for the temptation, should read up on Romans 7. The flesh will sell us out in a heartbeat. Why do powerful politicians and pastors and pastor’s wives throw everything away for a few minutes of pleasure? Why did Esau sell his birthright for a mess of pottage? Because we are sinners, worse than we think, more capable of wickedness and stupidity than we imagine. You can have all the hedges of protection in the world, but without the gospel and the transforming power of Christ that comes through the word of God and prayer, we still have the same heart. “Lead me not in temptation, but deliver me from evil”–pray it every day. We all have the ability to be moral morons.
Do people who sin and are caught publicly look stupid? Sure, but they are just like us. Don’t be so proud. Pray for deliverance. And for mercy. Read the rest of DeYoung’s post and consider where you are at.

Dangerous living: The danger of unprotected text while driving

Because we have built our automobiles to resemble living rooms (comfy seats, radios, AC, cupholders, etc.) rather than vehicles, it is not surprising that people want to bring their phones and TVs along for the ride as well. The idea that we could make a trip of any length without being pacified by songs, movies or texting seems unthinkable to most children, as well as many adults.

But think it over: How in the world do people expect to drive competently when they are trying to send the latest text message about what they’re going to be doing in the next five minutes? Yes, cars are easier to manipulate these days then in the past, but traffic is still traffic and goodness knows it would be nice to give some attention for the sake of those around you.

With that in mind, Car and Driver has done a study as to just how texting affects a driver’s ability to react. The test was pretty straightforward: Two subjects were tested in their response to a mounted red light (meant to simulate a brake light in a lead car). They were tested driving on a straight route with no other traffic. Their results were tested based on no impairments, when legally intoxicated, while reading texts and while sending texts. The results were clear:

The results, though not surprising, were eye-opening. Intern Brown’s baseline reaction time at 35 mph of 0.45 second worsened to 0.57 while reading a text, improved to 0.52 while writing a text, and returned almost to the baseline while impaired by alcohol, at 0.46. At 70 mph, his baseline reaction was 0.39 second, while the reading (0.50), texting (0.48), and drinking (0.50) numbers were similar. But the averages don’t tell the whole story. Looking at Jordan’s slowest reaction time at 35 mph, he traveled an extra 21 feet (more than a car length) before hitting the brakes while reading and went 16 feet longer while texting. At 70 mph, a vehicle travels 103 feet every second, and Brown’s worst reaction time while reading at that speed put him about 30 feet (31 while typing) farther down the road versus 15 feet while drunk.

Alterman fared much, much worse. While reading a text and driving at 35 mph, his average baseline reaction time of 0.57 second nearly tripled, to 1.44 seconds. While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds. These figures correspond to an extra 45 and 41 feet, respectively, before hitting the brakes. His reaction time after drinking averaged 0.64 second and, by comparison, added only seven feet. The results at 70 mph were similar: Alterman’s response time while reading a text was 0.35 second longer than his base performance of 0.56 second, and writing a text added 0.68 second to his reaction time. But his intoxicated number increased only 0.04 second over the base score, to a total of 0.60 second.

The upshot? We all know that driving while drunk is terrible. But driving while texting is way worse. How much? Consider the time it takes to break at 70 mph:

  • Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
  • Legally drunk: add 4 feet
  • Reading e-mail: add 36 feet
  • Sending a text: add 70 feet

I haven’t heard about any group called Mothers Against Texting Drivers yet, but the more we hear about accidents and deaths caused by texting, inattentive drivers, the likelier it may be.

God’s grace in the hurts others do to us

This talk, by Mark Talbot at the 2005 Desiring God National Conference, really ministers to me. Because I am surrounded by fallen, sinful people (like myself), there are numerous times where I have been injured, insulted, violated, offended, shocked, disappointed, slighted, overlooked, disparaged and generally hurt. It’s hard to “get along” sometimes.

The conference theme was Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Regarding suffering: Why does God allow these kind of things happen? Is is OK to complain to God? Does God make mistakes? How do we think biblically about suffering? These are questions Talbot addresses in his talk.

Mark Talbot
Click on the image to view Mark Talbot's talk from 2005.

Mark Talbot will be speaking again this year at the Desiring God national conference, which is themed With Calvin in the Theater of God.

Remember Ed Thomas and what he treasured above all

Click on image to see the ESPN report featuring Ed Thomas that ran last year.
Click on image to see the ESPN report featuring Ed Thomas that ran last year.

Ed Thomas may have been remembered as the man who coached football (successfully) at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Iowa. He may also be remembered as the man who was shot early Wednesday morning by a former student and died shortly afterward at a high school. To those who knew him, however, he will be remembered as a man who followed a greater mission in life than football. From a report Wednesday by the Associated Press:

“Coach Thomas was very special to me and many other young men from the Aplington-Parkersburg communities,” said Green Bay Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman. “His legacy for many will be associated with his tremendous success as a football coach. However, I believe his greatest legacy comes not in how many football games he won or lost but in the fact that he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ.”

At times like these we must step back and wonder about how God works mysteriously. It’s a mystery in that he does not tell us his plans, but it is enough to know that it is to bring himself glory. Our success is not his ultimate goal, but there will be times when it works out that way. Our failure or suffering is not his ultimate goal, but there will also be times when that will come about. What is his ultimate goal? Having people see Him as supreme. And people like Ed Thomas do that. Today, through the testimony of those who knew him, we are reminded of that.

The restlessness in our lives and the persistence of Jesus

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

— John 4:16-21

At Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, John Piper has been preaching through the book of John. The past weeks they have been looking at the story of Jesus and his encounter with the woman at the well. This past week they examined how Jesus spoke with her concerning her adultery and what it means to us as we read it:

You may move through sexual partners, like she did, or through friends, or jobs, or churches, or hobbies, or hairstyles, or wardrobes, or cars, or locations. Never able to settle with a kind of deeply contented identity in Christ, satisfied daily with the ever-springing water of his fellowship.

I don’t mean that the Christian life is static. But there is a difference between the confident movement of faith and the craving movement of frustration. On the one hand, there is restless movement from one thing to the next because we have no solid, satisfied identity in Christ. And on the other hand, we have Christ as our Fountain of life and we move with purposefulness and creativity in the life and power that this living water gives. There is a difference between the jumping from one thing to the next out of frustration and the moving purposefully out of faith.

Jesus is teaching us about ourselves as well as about his glorious sufficiency as water, prophet, savior, and Messiah.

The other thing that is happening in the story is that the woman, like us, is looking at all kinds of externals (water, adultery, where to worship) and is ignoring the inner issues. Jesus knows this and, while not trying to press her on her sin, is not going there either. Piper addresses this as well:

How many times have you been trying to explain to someone about how Jesus died for sinners and rose again to provide forgiveness and reconciliation and have the persons say, “What about the hate speech of right-wing fanatics?” Or “What about gay rights?” Or “What about the people who have never heard about Jesus?”

The remarkable thing about Jesus here is that he does not say, “Let’s stay on the subject, ma’am. We are talking about your adultery.” But neither does he let her define exactly where they are going next.

Jesus is willing to go with her to her topic, but not to her issue. Her issue is: Where do we worship? Her whole life is one of externals. She is dead on the inside, and all she can relate to now are superficial externals. Her distracting question only deals with geography (verse 20): “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Jesus won’t deal at that level. He has gone into her heart, and that is what he will deal with. Verse 21: Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” In other words, “We are at a juncture in history when the place of worship will simply be irrelevant.” Verse 23: “The hour is coming, and is now here [because I am here!], when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The issue is not in this mountain or that mountain, but spirit and truth.

What you need, ma’am, is a spirit that is alive and a mind in love with truth.

The British decide: The rules for English have changed

While the world holds it breath waiting to see what happens in Iran following its elections, a revolution has taken place in Britain. From The Associated Press:

It’s a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned — “i before e, except after c.”

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The “Support For Spelling” document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule “is not worth teaching” because it doesn’t account for words like ‘sufficient,’ ‘veil’ and ‘their.’

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision.

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.