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Friday, December 31, 2010

"Redeeming the Tongue"

[Excerpted from Maurice Robert's "Redeeming the Tongue" from his book, "The Thought of God".]

"When the Christian comes to the end of his pilgrimage, one sin he will regret is his idle speech. It is assumed that no true believer allows himself to go on in outward sins such as drunkenness, theft or immorality. It is assumed, too, that the believer is concerned to put a stop to all inward sins, not least to sinful thoughts. But there is reason to believe that our sins of speech are specially in need of correction.

Our sins of thought bring us much shame inwardly; but our sins of speech expose us to shame in the eyes of others. Our sinful words are our sinful thoughts verbalized. They are audibly broadcast. They reflect the corruption within us as in a mirror. They do harm to ourselves and they do harm to others. Our folly, formerly known only to ourselves, is now apparent to all men. It is to be feared, therefore, that we do not read God's Word on this subject with anything like the attention it deserves. 'The heart of fools proclaims foolishness.' 'A fool's lips enter into contention.' 'A foolish woman is clamorous.' 'A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snares of his soul.' 'A fool utters all his mind.' What shame a good man feels when he spoils his testimony by speaking foolishly! Scripture says: 'Dead flies cause the ointment of the perfumer to send forth a stinking savor: so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.'

There is another reason, too, why we might look back in sorrow at our misuse of the tongue and therefore keep a more careful watch of it in the future. The tone of a Christian's conversation gives us a fair idea of how sanctified he is. 'By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned," said Christ. The meaning must surely be that words betray the true character of every man. They reveal the state of the heart.

Was it not our Savior and Judge himself who warned us: 'I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment'? Similarly, the apostle Paul issues this sober command to us: 'Let no corrupt/worthless communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearer.' There is a twofold duty placed before us in these words: to refrain from careless and unprofitable talk and to study to build one another up by well-chosen, soul-fattening conversation.

There is a special blessing attached to godly and spiritual conversation. To this Malachi alludes in his prophecy: 'Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.' What a promise! If Christians today were seriously to practice the pattern of this verse, how much more of God's presence we should enjoy! Then let us study to edify one another. Those who do so will discover that even the Almighty himself gives ear."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Doldrums Book Club

The Ladies winter book club will begin late January/early February. This time we'll be considering the issue of sanctification, the believer's personal holiness. God commands His people to be holy, reflecting His own holiness. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." (1Peter 1:14-16) What exactly does that look like in our lives? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a brief, but thought provoking book on the subject, entitled, "Holiness: The Heart God Purifies". 

Concerning the book, John Piper wrote, "When our pastoral team reads a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, we listen. We are riveted. We are convicted. When you taste the pleasantness of painful and precious truth, you want more. I thank God for the heart-awakening, holiness-advancing, Christ-exalting ministry of Nancy Leigh DeMoss."

Let me know if you intend to join us, and  if you'd like me to order a copy for you ($9.60 hardcover). You may do so by commenting below, on facebook, by email or in person. "If you're longing for a deeper connection with God, you must first answer His call to holiness." Won't you join us?
[Order Deadline: January 16th]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Challenge Is On...

Sometimes people have the idea that it's too late for them to seriously study God's Word. I've recently been amazed to see what a difference even a short period of consistent time spent in Scripture can make. Less than a year ago Colin started reading/listening through the Bible. He reads every morning and listens to CDs as he drives. In that short amount of time I've been amazed to hear him begin to apply Scripture to life and base decisions upon it. He's already developing an eternal perspective, referring to passages from memory and making insightful observations. In less than a year!

I've also been challenged by reading the biographies of believers who were imprisoned for their faith for long periods of time. Their ability to recall Scripture is what gave them a lifeline to hold onto. I'm ashamed to say I would not be able to do the same without a Bible in hand. We memorize so many isolated, unrelated and often out of context verses... but have no significant passages in context we can bring quickly to mind.

So I'm presenting you with a challenge. Sixteen weeks. That's all. In sixteen weeks (by Easter) you can have memorized the entire Book of Philippians. Accomplish that and see what a difference it makes in your spiritual walk! The blog over at Gospel Coalition has broken Philippians down into 16 weeks, with about 7 verses a week to learn. That means it has to become a daily habit. They say it takes just 3 weeks to create a habit... think what an opportunity this is! To help people out they offer a .pdf with weekly verses that can be pasted onto 5x7 index cards and fastened with a ring... or pasted into a Cahier moleskine book, available at Borders or directly from the moleskine website at 3 for $6.95 (plus shipping). Send me an email or make a comment below and I'll send you a copy of the .pdf to print out. I'm going to give it a try. I think I'll find it will become easier once I get into the swing of it. What a great book to know and be able to bring to mind at will! Think what a difference it would make in your life and in the lives of those you minister to! Give it a try!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Few Surprises in Cleveland!

I thought I would share a few significant antiquities from the collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As I descended the stairs to the antiquities area, I was shocked to discover a full sized bronze statue from Classical Greece staring at me. Greek bronzes are extremely rare. Most of our knowledge concerning them comes from their more recent Roman copies. (The Romans loved Greek culture!)  The only original bronzes I have ever seen were those discovered in a sunken ship off the coast of Greece and placed on display in a small museum in Piraeus, the port of Athens. And here was one in the collection at Cleveland! It's called "Apollo Sauroktonos (Lizard Slayer)" and depicts a youthful Apollo, holding an arrow, about to stab a lizard climbing the tree he's leaning against. The tree & arrow are gone. Other than that the statue is in wonderful condition. It's attributed to Praxiteles himself (400-330 BC). The eyes are made of stone. It's even more unusual for the eyes to be intact. The viewer has a vivid idea of how this statue actually appeared to the Greeks in the 4th century BC! This is a real treasure!

In the Ancient Near East collection I was also surprised to find a few other treasures. There are a number of ancient stone figures from the Greek Cyclades islands dating to c.3000 BC that seem almost modern in their simplicity of line & feature (see example on left). They're referred to as "Cycladic" art and I've only seen examples which came from this group of Greek islands in the Aegean. [The Benaki Museum in Athens has an excellent collection.] Well, it appears that Cleveland has one of similar style from the same time period which was found not in the Cyclades islands, but in Western Anatolia (modern Turkey)! No mythology has yet been found to go with these statues, but I suspect they were cultic in nature, probably representing a fertility goddess. The one in Cleveland is not identical to the Cyladic examples, but very close in style! (See Cleveland's "Star Gazer" on right.) One difference is that the head looks up in the Cleveland statue. The Cycladic statues usually have a straight-forward gaze. It's easy to imagine trade and exchange of ideas and culture between the Greek islands & Anatolia, even in 3000 BC. This truly fascinated me.

And finally, I was thrilled to discover finds from an "old friend". Mystery writer Agatha Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan, was an eminent British archaeologist. She accompanied him on digs in the Near East just before and after WWII and wrote about the experience in one of my favorite books, Come, Tell Me How You Live. It's a wonderful read and gives a fascinating depiction of the Near East in that time period. Mallowan is well known for his discovery of a number of small ivory carvings he found in a well in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud (modern Iraq). Since they were detached from the furniture where they originally appeared, it's probable they were part of the loot taken by an Assyrian king from some Near Eastern palace. [They are carved in a Phoenician (modern Lebanon) style.] They had been tossed into the well, perhaps  during a subsequent attack of Assyrian Nimrud, and there they remained until discovered by Mallowan. A number are on display at the British Museum and others can be seen in the National Museum in Iraq. Good news, friends... some of them can also be viewed at the Cleveland Museum of Art! I walked around a corner and came upon an entire display case of them! Breathtaking and so unexpected. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the ones from Cleveland, but here are a few examples found in other museums. This is a peek into the Ancient Near Eastern world we read about in the Old Testament!