Tim Keller

Shining Idols: A Rejected Covenant

Shining Idols: A Rejected Covenant

Last week we started considering how idolatry might still be alive and well in us today.

To do so, we took ourselves back to the most famous incident of idolatry in the Bible: the golden calf.[i] The Israelites created the golden calf at the very time God is giving Moses the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments capture God’s covenant with his people. God declares, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”[ii]  The covenant begins with a statement of who God is: he is the saving God, the rescuing God. God then promises that his covenant is exclusive. In weddings the pastor asks the groom, do you promise to “love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?” And then he turns to the bride and asks her a similar set of questions. A marriage covenant is exclusive. In it we relinquish our authority. So is our covenant with God.

As she creates the golden calf, Israel rejects the covenant and takes her authority back. The covenant that was made with God is now broken. Israel is an adulteress. As pastor Tim Keller once said, “We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.”[iii]

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Everyone suffers. And yet perhaps because of the age in which we live, there have been few cultures that have struggled more with suffering than ours. I’m currently reading a popular book on loss and I’m struck by how vapid the wisdom of our age is in the face of suffering.

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is, quite simply, the best book on suffering that I’ve read. Keller deals with the subject philosophically, theologically, and practically. Each treatment is successful on its own, and combined they pack a unique punch as Keller engages mind and heart alike.

Timothy Keller is such a unique author. His books range from the incredibly accessible: The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods, to the slightly more rigorous, but still very accessible apologetic, The Reason for God, to the more rigorous practitioner’s guides such as Generous Justice or Preaching. Part of Timothy Keller’s unique gifting is his ability to write so well in each of these genres. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is the most rigorous book by Keller to date and yet the book is every bit as well written as any of his best.

Contemporary westerners are repelled by suffering and death. On the stage of world history, our fear of death is abnormal. Keller quotes an author at The New York Times Magazine, who, after the tragic sniper shootings in the Washington DC area reflected, “The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes. Whether it’s exercise, checking our cholesterol or having a mammogram, we are always hedging against mortality. [And yet] despite our best intentions, it is still, for the most part, random. And it is absolutely coming.”[i] This aversion to suffering and death is a cultural blind spot and means that we naturally approach the topic with naiveté.

The Lure of Sensuality

The Lure of Sensuality

Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is not that God exists, and not that God sent his Son to the earth. It’s not the miracles: did God really make the universe out of nothing? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? It’s not even that its ethical stance on sexuality feels behind the times.

The most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is unequivocally our call to not just believe in, but to grant God authority in our lives and live faithfully and righteously.

In 2 Peter 2, Peter admonishes the church to beware of those who are false teachers and prophets. He says, “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” It’s interesting that he uses the word sensuality here. He doesn’t say, “And many will follow their false beliefs,” he says, “And many will follow their sensuality.”[i]

The result, not the cause, of our sensual desires is believing in false teaching.

The hook of false beliefs is rarely the beliefs themselves. Atheism, frankly, isn’t a very attractive belief system on its own merits. By its very definition, life contains no meaning: the brutal and blind hand of the natural world is all that is. It raises more questions than it solve: from the question of creation to the problem of evil to ethics. The hook of atheism is sensuality. If there is no God, there is no one you have to cede authority of your life to.

It’s why agnosticism is much more popular than atheism[ii] You get the same freedom and don’t have to swallow nearly as bitter a pill.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Males and Females in the Workplace: Interesting in-depth study on the shifting face of the workplace over the past 65 years. Really interesting and interactive infographics. 

2.    Why doesn't God Just Talk to Me? Dan Dewitt responds to this question, "So, here’s a few reasons why it’s better for you that God has chosen to speak to you through his Word rather than waking you up in the middle of the night with an audible, 'Hey you! Get out of bed and listen up!'"

3.    What's the Purpose of Children? Tim Challies's consideration of this simple question reveals how many significant cultural barriers there are, "The pursuit of dreams and the fulfillment of personal potential has become our highest priority. A recent Forbes article tells that in 2015, Millennials spent nearly twice as much on self-improvement than Boomers, even though their income is only half as much. This individualistic culture has a profound effect on our understanding of children. When self is at the center, children are regarded as yet another means of self-realization—one that can be pursued or rejected according to personal preference. Those who choose to have children do so only when it is convenient; when they are in a stable place in life, relationship, and career; and when the burden of having them will be as small as possible. Little wonder, then, that the percentage of women between 40 and 44 who have never had children doubled between 1976 and 2006. Children have become an optional accessory to a well-rounded, successful life. Many people essentially believe that the purpose of children is to add value to the lives of their parents."

4.    Why Even a Happy Marriage Won't Prevent An Affair: Russel Moore adeptly navigates the findings of a secular counselor and digs for a deeper Christian explanation, " In the October issue of The Atlantic, Esther Perel looks back on the scope of her counseling encounters with marriages in crisis over infidelity and notes how rarely she sees adulterous people who cheat out of a desire to flee a bad relationship. Often, she writes, it’s just the opposite. She encounters people who want to keep their marriage, the way that it is, and who don’t actually want to leave it for the other relationship."

5.      How Sharing the Gospel in the Secular Age is Different: Tim Keller and Russell Moore reflect on the unique challenges of our ages in this 8 minute video.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Arizona's Monsoon Season Begins: Incredible footage of an incredible season here in Tucson. 

2.      How the Worst Moment in My Life was Also the Best: David Murray shares the story of Matthew Bryce and considers it in light of our salvation: "Just over a week ago, Matthew Bryce decided to go surfing off the Scottish coast. Within a few hours the tide and wind had blown him thirteen miles out to sea. He watched the sun set, knowing he would not survive the night."

3.      How Self-Forgetfulness Makes us Happier: Randy Alcorn on how self-forgetfulness makes us happier: " However, people who think a lot about Christ and His grace, the great doctrines of the faith, and how to love and serve others tend to be happy people. By redirecting attention from ourselves to God, we adopt a right perspective that brings happiness."

4.      What to do when singleness lasts longer than expected:  Marshall Segal shares, “Marriage is a good gift and a terrible god. Most of my grief in my teenage years and even into my twenties came from giving more of my heart to my future marriage than to God. It’s easy to anchor our hope and happiness in a wife or husband and to define our growth, maturity, and worth by our marital status. And when we worship love, romance, sex, or marriage—and not God—we welcome the pain and disappointment.”

5.      7 Things to Consider Before You Make a Political Post: Thanks to Tim Challies who pointed me to Scott Slayton’s sage advice.  

A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 4

A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 4

When you think of godly leaders, King David is in rarified air. He is, after all the famed slayer of Goliath, the one who was known as “the man after God’s own heart” and the greatest king in Israel’s history. His life seemed directionless from a human perspective, but every step had incredible purpose. There is no King David without his journey.

As a young man, David had the oil from Samuel’s horn poured out over his head and “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”[i] It was within a few years that David would defeat Goliath and be promised Saul’s daughter in marriage. Surely he must have thought that his ascension to the throne was near. But as things so often are in God’s economy, it would be many years before David would sit on the throne.[ii] David would go from the rising star of Israel, whom the people sung about in the streets, to fleeing, to exile, wandering with his motley band across the hostile terrain of Palestine. And while so many years had passed, he twice refused to take the life of the man who not only sought his life, but blocked his anointing.[iii]    

What must have sustained David for these long years was not only the presence of God, but also God’s purpose for him. Even as he ran for his life, he speaks of his trust and his purpose, “But the king [referring to himself, who wasn’t yet king] shall rejoice in God.” So it is with the power of a purposeful spiritual life for us. When we know and understand the identity and purposes God has placed on our lives, it sustains us through tremendous difficulty, which is also God’s purpose.

Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller

Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller

"In the beginning, then, God worked.” It’s from this simple platform that pastor and author Tim Keller begins his project of redeeming the goodness of work. It’s a simple platform, but its implications are far-reaching. Keller continues, “Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration" (pp.34-35). Everything flows out this profound reality. Work did not come after the fall; no, humans were given the task of work before there was sin. And, in fact, our work uniquely mirrors back our God's perfect work from eternity.