Why We Lie

“We like to believe that a few bad apples spoil the virtuous bunch. But research shows that everyone cheats a little—right up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity.”

“Not too long ago, one of my students, named Peter, told me a story that captures rather nicely our society’s misguided efforts to deal with dishonesty. One day, Peter locked himself out of his house. After a spell, the locksmith pulled up in his truck and picked the lock in about a minute.

“I was amazed at how quickly and easily this guy was able to open the door,” Peter said. The locksmith told him that locks are on doors only to keep honest people honest. One percent of people will always be honest and never steal. Another 1% will always be dishonest and always try to pick your lock and steal your television; locks won’t do much to protect you from the hardened thieves, who can get into your house if they really want to. The purpose of locks, the locksmith said, is to protect you from the 98% of mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door if it had no lock.

We tend to think that people are either honest or dishonest. In the age of Bernie Madoff and Mark McGwire, James Frey and John Edwards, we like to believe that most people are virtuous, but a few bad apples spoil the bunch. If this were true, society might easily remedy its problems with cheating and dishonesty. Human-resources departments could screen for cheaters when hiring. Dishonest financial advisers or building contractors could be flagged quickly and shunned. Cheaters in sports and other arenas would be easy to spot before they rose to the tops of their professions.

But that is not how dishonesty works. Over the past decade or so, my colleagues and I have taken a close look at why people cheat, using a variety of experiments and looking at a panoply of unique data sets—from insurance claims to employment histories to the treatment records of doctors and dentists. What we have found, in a nutshell: Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. Sadly, it is this kind of small-scale mass cheating, not the high-profile cases, that is most corrosive to society….”

By Dan Ariely

Keep Reading: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304840904577422090013997320.html

Tell Out, My Soul

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of His Word;
In God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name!
Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age the same;
His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight;
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word!
Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.
Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children’s children and forevermore!

-Timothy Dudley-Smith, paraphrase of Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Fight Hard Against Sexual Sin

“This is a needed reminder for those of us in full-time pastoral ministry. God’s Word demands that we be above-reproach & integrity-filled when it comes to our sexual purity.

Here are Armstrong’s eight suggested ways that pastors should plan to prevent sexual sin (pp. 174–81): 

  1. “Understand the nature of sexual temptation.” “In two areas, traveling and counseling, a pastor must take precautions.” [Cf. Josh Harris on how guys and girls are “wired” differently sexually.]
  2. “Understand the power of the seductive woman.” “The pastor must be especially careful to guard himself when he detects the first mannerisms that indicate a woman may have feelings that are beyond those of a healthy and pure relationship.”
  3. “Guard your mind.” “The pastor must guard his mind by staying away from explicitly erotic material, as well as television programs and images that fuel the fires of lust. . . . Pornography surrounds us, acting as a poison that corrupts healthy sexuality.” [Cf. Joe Tyrpak, “Help for Fighting Lust: A Meditation Plan“; Mike Salvati, “The God of Truth and the Lies of Porn.”]
  4. “Cultivate and protect your own marriage.” “This seems to be the plainest meaning of the wisdom given in Proverbs 5:15–23: You must enjoy your wife physically and her alone.”
  5. “Take precautions as you minister.” “The wise pastor cannot be overly careful.” [Cf. Mark Minnick, “Maintaining Moral Purity in the Ministry.”]
  6. “Maintain relationships where accountability is real.” “Every pastor needs several relationships where he is mutually accountable for his actions and relationships with others.” [Cf. Phil Gons, Matthew Hoskinson, and Andy Naselli, “Accountability.”]
  7. “Cultivate your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.” “You must know yourself and take care of your body and soul to remain strong.”
  8. “Consider regularly the consequences of sexual sin.” “What will this sin mean to your wife? Your children? Your congregation? Your closest friends? Your future ministry? We need to do this because the outcome of this particular sin is so deceiving.” [Cf. Randy Alcorn’s “purity principle“: purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid.]

From: John H. Armstrong. The Stain That Stays: The Church’s Response to the Sexual Misconduct of Its Leaders. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications; Reformation and Revival Ministries, 2000.”

Complements of: http://vassaloftheking.blogspot.com/2012/05/fight-hard-against-sexual-sin.html

The Demise of Guys

“You know the guy I’m talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he’s a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don’t recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn’t about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community.

If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.

There’s a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition. But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

When these drives are directed toward the illusion of ever-expanding novelty, they kill joy. The search for a mate is good, but blessedness isn’t in the parade of novelty before Adam. It is in finding the one who is fitted for him, and living with her in the mission of cultivating the next generation. When necessary, it is right to fight. But God’s warfare isn’t forever novel. It ends in a supper, and in a perpetual peace.

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one’s life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one’s reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let’s train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.”

-Russell Moore –http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fake-love-fake-war-why-so-many-men-are-addicted-to-internet-porn-and-video-games

O God, Thou Bottomless Abyss!

O God, Thou bottomless abyss!
Thee to perfection who can know?
O height immense! What words suffice
Thy countless attributes to show?

Unfathomable depths Thou art;
O plunge me in Thy mercy’s sea!
Void of true wisdom is my heart;
With love embrace and cover me:

While Thee, all-infinite, I set
By faith before my ravished eye,
My weakness bends beneath the weight;
O’erpowered I sink, I faint, I die.

Eternity Thy fountain was,
Which, like Thee, no beginning knew;
Thou wast ere time began his race,
Ere glowed with stars the ethereal blue.

Greatness unspeakable is Thine,
Greatness, whose undiminished ray,
When short-lived worlds are lost, shall shine,
When earth and Heaven are fled away.

Unchangeable, all-perfect Lord,
Essential life’s unbounded sea,
What lives and moves, lives by Thy Word;
It lives, and moves, and is from Thee.

Thy parent-hand, Thy forming skill,
Firm fixed this universal chain;
Else empty, barren darkness still
Had held his unmolested reign.

Whate’er in earth, or sea, or sky,
Or shuns or meets the wandering thought,
Escapes or strikes the searching eye,
By Thee was to perfection brought.

High is Thy power above all height,
Whate’er Thy will decrees is done;
Thy wisdom, equal to Thy might,
Only to Thee, O God, is known!

Heaven’s glory is Thy awful throne,
Yet earth partakes Thy gracious sway:
Vain man! Thy wisdom folly own,
Lost is thy reason’s feeble ray.

What our dim eye could never see,
Is plain and naked to Thy sight;
What thickest darkness veils, to Thee
Shines clearly as the morning light.

In light Thou dwell’st; light that no shade,
No variation, ever knew;
Heaven, earth, and hell, stand all displayed,
And open to Thy piercing view.

-Ernst Lange, 1714. Translated from German by John Wesley.

Defining Man

“Surprisingly, attempting to define man in simple terms is not an easy task. There are many things that could be included in the definition and a line has to be drawn somewhere. I’ve chosen to define man according the very first use of the term in the Bible.

In Genesis 1 we find at least four defining characteristics that teach us whatman is:

1) As most English Bibles make clear in their footnotes, the term man in Hebrew (adam) is very closely related to the Hebrew word for earth or ground (adama). This is an intentional and ongoing reminder that God formed man “from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), which teaches us that man is an integrated, natural member of God’s created world.

2) Man is created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27); which means that, along with being a natural member of God’s creation, he is also a supernatural being. Having been made in the image of God, he carries the imprint of the supernatural Creator, the God who exists and operates in ways that exceed the natural order he has created. James 3:9 affirms that this divine image has not been removed even after man’s fall from his original state of sinlessness.

3) Man has dominion over creation. God makes this clear in his original mandate to man: “let them have dominion over [everything else I’ve created]” (Genesis 1:26). One of the main implications of being created in God’s image is that we share in his dominion over other created things. But note how our first point affects this: since we are also a member of creation, we serve ourselves best when we steward the rest of creation well.

4) Man is male and female. “In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This verse teaches us that a central component of what God intended when he made man is that we would exist as two intentionally distinct sexes.

In summary, then, Genesis 1 teaches us that man is the one creature made male and female, from the earth, in the image of God, with dominion over the rest of creation.”

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/resources/the-essential-man

4 Ways to Fight Clean Over Doctrine

“It’s the fall semester of the new year at the local Bible college.

Tim and Ted are brand-new, computer-selected, freshman roommates in the guys’ dorm. Tim became a Calvinist about six months ago. He reads Reformed books, listens to Reformed podcasts, talks incessantly about Reformed theology, and just got a “Soli Deo Gloria” tattoo.

Ted is his roommate. He is not Reformed. In fact, he actually doesn’t like Reformed people or their theology. He listens to Southern Gospel music on tape and opposes tattoos of any kind.

It’s going to be a long semester.

Were we to listen in on their conversations (a.k.a. significant disagreements) throughout their short journey together, we would likely hear a number of things loud and clear. First, we would hear two young men equally passionate about what they believe. This is truly a wonderful thing. Second, we would hear that they actually agree on much more than they disagree on. But they usually shout too loudly to hear it themselves.

I am not going to lead us in a chorus of “Love Can Build a Bridge” and say that things like polity and baptism don’t really matter or “love unites, but doctrine divides.” Yet I have seen over the years how Christians get so consumed with secondary issues that the gospel is obscured, the mission is sidetracked, and the body of Christ is injured.

There must be a better way to fight about the things we can’t seem to agree on. Consider these four ways to fight clean over doctrine.

1. Keep the cross at the center of your theological system.

I have found it impossible to look up to Jesus and then down my nose at a brother or sister with whom I disagree. A cross-centered theology reminds us to keep the “main thing the main thing” and serves as a helpful compass to navigate the landscape of secondary issues. It also helps us see how much we actually share in common and what serves as the source of unity and hope. When the gospel is the center, everything else becomes appropriately resized.

2. Ask yourself some uncomfortable questions.

We all like to assume that we are as cool as ice when the differences come to light, but is this really the case? Ask yourself these questions: What posture do I take in a doctrinal discussion? Do I quickly become agitated? Do I raise your voice easily? How would my wife or those closest to me people describe me during these kinds of situations? Take it a step further and actually ask them. Their answers may surprise you. And help you.

3. Remember that you probably held the other position not too long ago.

Nearly all pastors and theologians I know continually refine their theology. Sure, we may have the “big things” down, but some theological shifting is natural as we learn, grow, and age. AIf, for example, if you subscribe to a more Reformed understanding of the “doctrines of grace,” there is a strong chance that you haven’t always stood where you stand now. The way you present your ideas has a lot to do with how they’re received. Don’t be another “angry Calvinist.” We have enough of them.

4. Pursue humility with the same passion that you pursue clarity.

This may be the most difficult but necessary pursuit of all. Never forget that studying comes with a built-in occupational hazard: pride. It is so easy to live on the wrong side of 1 Corinthians 8:1b: “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” As we seek to be diligent in out study, we should seek to be equally diligent in our pursuit of humility. To this end, I try to devote myself to prayer, re-reading Philippians 2, and reflecting on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. As we see the great humility of Jesus, the Spirit will cultivate greater humility in us as well.

Tim and Ted were great guys, but they fought dirty and both lost. Too often we fall into the same trap. May God give us the grace today to begin fighting a different fight—with our own sin—so that we fight clean.”

-Dustin Neeley, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/05/21/4-ways-to-fight-clean-over-doctrine/

Slavery, gay marriage, and hypocrisy in the black church

“In the aftermath of President Obama’s announcement that he supports redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, many news outlets featured stories that compared the desire of gay couples for marriage to the plight of the American slaves. In fact, it became a common theme that black churches who opposed gay marriage were guilty of cultural and biblical hypocrisy.

Many of these articles even expressly stated that the use of the Bible to limit marriage to heterosexual unions is tantamount to supporting the kidnapping, sale, and perpetual ownership of Africans as slaves. After all, some slave owners used the Bible to defend the institution of slavery, and some Americans are using the Bible to define marriage, so the similarities should be obvious.

Here is an excerpt from one example, titled “Is the black church guilty of spiritual hypocrisy in same-sex marriage debate?” from CNN’s religion blog:

Why would the black church cite scripture to exclude gays when a similar approach to the Bible was used to enslave their ancestors?

“It’s so unfortunate,” says James Cone, one the nation’s most influential black theologians and author of “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

“The literal approach to scripture was used to enslave black people,” he says. “I’ve said many times in black churches that the black church is on the wrong side of history on this. It’s so sad because they were on the right side of history in their own struggle.”

Call it historical irony: Black church leaders arguing against same-sex marriage are making some of the same arguments that supporters of slavery made in the 18th and 19th centuries, some historians say. Both groups adopted a literal reading of the Bible to justify withholding basic rights from a particular group.

These articles (which appeared in dozens of major news publications over the last few weeks) are by necessity short on actual scripture references. But they generally followed this argument:

1. A literal reading of Scripture defines marriage as heterosexual

2. A literal reading of Scripture was also used to validate American slavery

3. American slavery was morally wrong

4. Therefore the Bible should not be used by anyone, but especially black churches, to define marriage

It is precisely the second point—that a literal reading of the Bible validates American slavery—where this argument errs. In fact, the truth is the opposite. Here are four reasons why a literal reading of the Bible actually condemns the institution of American slavery:

1) Kidnapping someone for any purpose—but especially for the purpose of slavery—is a capital crime in the Bible. Exodus 21:16 reads, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” This passage, if treated literally, would have ended the American institution of slavery.

2) Slavery in Old Testament times was fundamentally different than American slavery. It was an institution of mercy, which people entered voluntarily, for the purpose of providing for their families. It was not based on the kidnapping, sale, and ownership of individuals. Slaves were released very six years (Exodus 21:2). There is no concept of perpetual slavery in the Bible.

3) The Bible prohibits returning run-away slaves to their masters. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 forbids fugitive slave laws. If a slave runs away, he is given his freedom and is allowed to dwell “wherever it suits him.”

4) In the Roman world, where kidnapping for slavery was more common, the New Testament says that a person who sinned in such a way was not welcome in the church. In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul writes that “enslavers” have no place in the kingdom of God. The Greek word used for “enslavers” refers to those who took people into slavery against their will.

Much could be said about the horrors of American slavery. But any assessment of the Bible’s teaching leads to the realization that Scripture actually stands in opposition to the American slave trade. Yes, the Bible does say, “slaves, obey your masters” (Eph 6:5). But the kind of slavery described in the Bible is fundamentally different than the kind of slavery that was practiced in the Americas, and any honest historian should know that.

There is a real irony to the accusation that deriving a heterosexual definition of marriage from the Bible is analogous to using Scripture to justify of American slavery. In fact, in the list of practices that have no place in the church (found in 1 Timothy 1:9-10), right before “enslavers” is this word: “homosexuals.” The exact same passage that condemns the forcible trade of humans as property also condemns the act of homosexuality.

You can believe that passage, or you can reject it. But what you can’t do is say that those who twisted Scripture to defend slavery are using the same arguments as those that define marriage in heterosexual terms. The comparison actually goes in the opposite direction:

1. The Bible condemns both the act of kidnapping and the ownership of a person against his or her will

2. The Bible also describes homosexual acts as being sinful

In the gay marriage debate, the ones using slave era hermeneutics are those that ignore the clear teaching of Scripture on marriage.”

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/slavery-and-gay-marriage/

An Appointment She Wished She had Missed

“I was 29 years old, and had just moved across country for a new job. I was scared, and alone. And I knew the minute I landed in my new city, the decision to move had been a huge mistake. But I was there, and had no money to move back home. I’d have to just make it work. As time wore on, I felt increasingly alone and depressed. Nights were spent at home, alone, usually with a bottle of wine. I was living in a two story building with windows overlooking the apartments next door. I had been there about 2 months and had noticed a very nice looking guy next door. We had spoken a couple of times in the parking lot and he seemed nice enough. One night, I decided to take the bold step of introducing myself. Encouraged by the half bottle of wine I had consumed, I grabbed an unopened bottle and headed next door. It didn’t take long for us to go through with it. He was nice and warm and, needless to say, very willing to relieve me of my loneliness. Trouble was, because of my move, my prescription for my pills had run out about a month earlier, and I hadn’t bothered to get a new one. But I wouldn’t worry about that, it’d be OK. About 4 weeks later, I knew something wasn’t right. I was out of town on a business trip and couldn’t keep anything down, especially in the morning. Sure enough, I got back home, went to the doctor, and he confirmed my suspicions. Funny thing is, I remember how happy I was. I remember smiling, and thinking, “I’m going to have a baby!” The next thing the doctor said was, “We can set up an appointment for you next week; we’ll take care of everything.” That’s when the reality set in. Of course he was right, he was “the doctor.” I was unmarried, couldn’t even remember the name of the “father,” and there was no way I was going to try to explain this to my mother, 1400 miles away. I couldn’t lay this at her feet and expect her forgiveness.

I remember driving up to the building to keep “my appointment”. Somehow, I managed to get through the whole thing. I was by myself, no one went with me. I’m strong, I knew I could do it, and then everything would be OK, back to normal. When the doctor was done, he came into the room, smiling, to announce everything went just fine… “Oh and, by the way, it was a boy”. That was the moment I realize I had just aborted my son. I had just killed the little boy that was to have been my son. That was 30 years ago. I still hear the doctor’s voice. I still see myself driving home, stunned by what I had just done. I still remember the irony of calling my mother later that same day just to hear her voice. And I still remember that two days after “my procedure” was Mother’s Day. I am a Christian, and have been all of my life. I take full responsibility for my actions 30 years ago. No one made that decision but me. I have prayed for forgiveness, and know that it has been granted by my Heavenly Father. But, I can’t find it in my heart to forgive myself. I probably never will. Know this… if you are considering abortion, the consequences of the decision you make today will be with you your entire life. You don’t get a do over. Know that you are aborting a living being, a child, no matter how young the fetus is. You may be strong enough to go through the procedure, but the pain you will live with the rest of your life will drive you to your knees. You’d think after 30 years I would have dealt with it. I keep trying.”

Age: 59
Location: Columbus, OH
Date: May 14, 2012


What’s Missing from Tract Evangelism?

Every so often when strolling through downtown Burbank or the Americana in Glendale, I receive a tract from some unknown person trying to spread the Gospel. Most tracts are designed to grab the reader’s attention quickly, tell the truth, and offer the person forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Most people think of evangelism as something done toward a person we do not know. Cold evangelism is fine and should be done, especially when done to win people not arguments, but it is not the primary way believers evangelize. A few weeks ago I proposed evangelism is primarily done in our daily life with people we interact with habitually.

But there is something missing with almost every tract and most “cold” presentations. The missing element is explainable considering the theology behind most who compile tracts. Some of these groups focus their attention on proving sinfulness, distilling the Gospel down to four points, and have not even considered they are missing something–the heart of the Great Commission!

I just encountered you. I received a Gospel presentation and a tract. I do not respond to you. I go home, I think about it, and I dwell on what you said. I read your tract and then open a dusty Bible or find an e-Bible. I get saved. GREAT!!!! Now what?

What do I do? Where do I go? Who do I tell? I need direction.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . .”

The main point of this verse is “make disciples.” Every other action (go, baptize, and teach) are subservient to the main idea of “making disciples” and yet they provide further details on how to make disciples. But the point is “make disciples.” Tract evangelism seems to emphasize the “go” and teaches a little of the Gospel. But who is going to help develop me? Who is going to disciple me? Where am I going to see and imitate the faith to grow more like and serve Jesus Christ? Where am I going to practice the one another’s and grow? Who am I going to ask difficult questions?

What did you leave on the tract to point me where to go? Did you leave a church address? Telephone number? Are you trusting the person will have immediate discernment to recognize a biblically based church and immediately get plugged in?

Yes God is sovereign and He will complete what He begins in a believer. But we desire to help the person as much as possible. Is adding a church address or providing a telephone number really that difficult? If our goal is making disciples then we hand out helpful information. Yes the Gospel is helpful. Yes it is even more helpful to provide personal contact information especially if he or she repents!

The missing element in tract evangelism is the church. Before you grab your million dollars and walk out the front door, consider the follow through. How will you direct a person back to a good church? Will you add an address, email, and contact information? How will you make sure the Great Commission is truly about “making disciples”?

-Jason Vaughn, http://shepherdthesheep.com/2012/05/21/whats-missing-from-the-track-you-hand-out/