Blogroll: Blog & Mablog

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 119 posts from the blog 'Blog & Mablog.'

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Theology That Bites Back
Updated: 1 hour 22 min ago

Or Pfft Twice

3 hours 35 min ago

“If Jesus really did come back from the dead, then certain things are false, and the gigantic brotherhood of man has gone pfft” (Empires of Dirt, p.35).

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Categories: People I don't know

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

3 hours 38 min ago

“Now, despite this disclaimer, if someone comes up to me angrily and says, ‘I don’t care about all those disclaimers . . . you really are talking about me!’ Well, yes, I guess I probably am” (Food Catholic, p. 39).

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Categories: People I don't know

Flake News

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 19:25

So let us talk for a moment about the term “fake news.” Why are we talking about this all of a sudden? Why is this a thing now?

During the campaign there were various stories that circulated on the Internet, made up of whole cloth, some of which were not flattering to Hillary. In the aftermath of the election, when her people were flailing around in search of someone or something to blame besides Her Majesty, one of the things they tried out was the idea that it was “fake news” that had hurt her in the final days of the election. Let’s run that one up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.

Not only did no one salute, but something else entirely happened.


But before proceeding further, let me acknowledge fully and sincerely that there were stories out there about Hillary that, when it came to the falsitudinous quotient, ranked pretty high up there. I also acknowledge that Nigerian princes who are stranded in Manila with a suitcase full of gold bullion are also not, shall we say, legit. Do not send them your bank account number. And further, I cheerfully note that purveyors of clickbait techniques love to tell us that what Ted Cruz said next went BOOM, and that Kellyanne Conway DESTROYED Anderson Cooper, and that when you see what Bo Derek looks like now it will BLOW YOUR MIND. So Hillary had to deal with that foolishness, as well all the rest of us. Welcome to earth, kid.

And here is another qualification. Donald Trump is a wrecking ball. It is possible to applaud the fact of some of the wreckage without applauding, um, the entire project. Remember that Elisha met privately with Hazael, but was not in cahoots with Hazael. Elisha sent a young prophet to anoint Jehu king, but was not part of Jehu’s faction. I look at Donald Trump calling CNN names in a presidential news conference, and I realize yet again that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Back to the Thread

So this is when the other thing happened. Fake news became an item of concern as the Hillary folks were trying to explain to us how the most qualified woman in the world managed to lose to Donald Jehu Trump. They put the phrase fake news into play, but they tried doing so by means of an onside kick. The ball flew like a wounded duck, landed on the pointy end, and bounced in ways that would require a sportswriter of the old school to describe. Trump picked it up, but instead of running for the end zone, he ran down the offensive line of the Democratic Party, knocking over CNN, CBS, MSNBC, two refs, and the water boy, and . . .

Look. Let us be frank with each other, you and I. Sometimes when the metaphor mojo is running a little hot, there really isn’t anything you can do except start a new paragraph and hope that the pistons didn’t melt.

At any rate, the phrase fake news was used by Hillary to refer the mole hill of Facebook stories that described her as an illegal immigrant from Area 51, and then Trump picked the phrase up and used it to refer to the Himalayas of bum dope that has been churned by the metric ton for decades out by we call the main stream media. He used it of them and on them, and the dang thing stuck. He refused to allow CNN to question him in a press conference because “you are fake news.” And in his last presser, he said, no, no, that isn’t quite right. “You are very fake news.” Hillary tried to call flake news by the name fake news, and it got turned around and applied to a more worthy object.

Now ordinarily this would be just an insult and, if Mark Twain is to be believed, an ill-advised one. “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” But this is not an ordinary circumstance, and I honestly don’t know if the newsprint, broadcast, and cable establishment is going to be able to recover from this. Here is why.

Dinosaur Hunting

Let us go back to the logic of the Industrial Revolution, which was a centralizing logic. The capstone of that Revolution was the newsprint media established in major cities (19th century) and the broadcast media (20th century). In the 1980’s, CNN arrived as a Johnny-come-lately on cable, making one think of an episode like the United States colonizing the Philippines—you know, two centuries late and very self-important.

When I was a boy, you got your news, if you got it at all, from the newspaper or from one of the big three broadcast stations—CBS, NBC, or ABC. If they blew sunshine at you, as they frequently did, there was not really much you could do about it. In most cases, you would not even know. There was no real way to cross check anything. What we ingested was mass media, delivered in bulk. To readapt an image from a colorful writer of another era, stories went into the massive news factories on the hoof and came out in cans. The gatekeepers were quite diligent, and there were very few gates to guard. If your news source of choice was broadcast television, you had three flavors to choose from. The cans were all the same size, and had basically the same gelatinous content.

If someone was lied about, or misrepresented, or the story that involved them was significantly garbled, there was no practical recourse for that person. And the fact that there was no recourse meant that there was no real disincentive for the media to avoid doing it. To be sure, there was that pesky concept called journalistic ethics that were supposed to govern the whole operation, but because there was very little practical recourse for the victim of a bad story, this meant that journalistic ethics had no one providing any police protection, and they lived on the bad side of town.

If I might insert my own testimony, as one who has been written about in newspapers and magazines a lot, it is safe to say that it is usually the case that some significant fact or facts are gotten wrong, particularly if the story involves some controversy. In other words, usually wrong, frequently unreliable. And in this regard, there has been no appreciable difference with Christian media—magazines like World, for example, have done a much poorer job with us than The New York Times has done. And this is not to say that the Times doesn’t have its issues. Heh, heh, its issues. Get it?

What this has done, over the course of decades, is create a vast pent-up frustration with the media, not quite coast to coast, but close. This has been recognized for a long time, and politicians on the right have angled for cheap points forever by attacking the media during campaigns. Yay. But everything stayed just the same after elections as before, and the frustration continued to build.

What Trump is doing is attacking a venerable institution that is already wasting away. He is dinosaur hunting with shoulder-mounted RPGs. He is shooting at them from a rented safari jeep.

Alt-Media, Not the Alt-Right

So the significant change that has occurred is that it has become possible to stay reasonably well-informed without coming into contact with any of the establishment media. A lot of people have taken the by-pass, and don’t drive through downtown Big Media at all anymore. I haven’t read a newspaper regularly for over a decade. I would have work to find out when the big three newscasts even air. I have no idea where they are hiding these days. I usually find out about breaking news through Twitter, Facebook, or various web sites. Those web sites are collated for me by me—I am my own “editor,” assembling them to taste. The editorial bias that all such sites have can be regulated and balanced with the presence of other sites. I can drop or add, depending. For example, during the heat of this last campaign I dropped Drudge (because of the pom poms), and now that the election is over, I can handle checking him again from time to time.

A Day Late

What has been striking to me is that a number of Republicans have been leaping to the defense of the legacy media. They have stood for years against media “bias,” and have complained about that liberal bias in a whiney voice for almost the same length of time, but they draw the line at Trump calling them all out for the buffoons, poltroons, and macaroons that they are. I know, don’t look it up. A macaroon is a small circular cake, a dainty, a trifle. Actually I think that works.

Moving on.

It is not an assault on freedom of the press to identify liars. It is not blackening the reputation of a venerable institution to point out that it has ceased long ago to be a venerable institution. Mencken had something to say on this: “American journalism (like the journalism of any other country) is predominately paltry and worthless. Its pretensions are enormous but its accomplishments are insignificant.”

In short, it matters not that Donald Trump is an unworthy messenger. The dinosaurs are old and decrepit, and the safari jeep has been on paved roads the whole time, Trump is going to sleep like a baby in a luxury hotel tonight, and the entire thing is completely unfair. But the fact that something feels unfair doesn’t keep it from happening.

his accounts for why it is that celebrity journalists are dancing in place, and spitting occasionally.

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Categories: People I don't know

Review: Rejoicing in Christ

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 04:33

Rejoicing in Christ
Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reeves writes with zest, and is very engaging. He is steeped in Scripture, and his exploration of the basics of Christian living is really good. On top of that, he has the classic Puritan writers at his fingertips and brings them in frequently to buttress or make a glorious point. This is a very good book.

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Categories: People I don't know

Review: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 00:35

 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very fine book on writing. Some really shrewd wisdom in this thing. One of my favorites is this: Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands. Rarely used words are not the same thing as unknown words.

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Categories: People I don't know

Review: The Portable Dante

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 00:31

The Portable Dante
The Portable Dante by Dante Alighieri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of course, glorious and wise. Well worth it. But I was struck — and perhaps unfairly — with the Christlessness of his Heaven.

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Categories: People I don't know

Missions and Media

Sat, 18/02/2017 - 16:02

Every year our congregation sponsors a missions conference, the one we just finished Saturday. It is also our custom to have the sermon following the missions conference be related to the subject of missions in some way. This message is no exception, but it is important for us not to misunderstand. The fact that we mark Good Friday and Easter on an annual basis does not mean that the crucifixion and resurrection are somehow dispensable in other times of the year. And the fact that we are done with the missions conference does not mean we are done with mission.

The Text:

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Summary of the Text:

At the end of the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives His disciples their marching orders. This is not the Great Commission, but it is on the same theme as that commission. Go into all the world. When you go into all the world, you will find creatures there. When you find creatures there, you are to proclaim the gospel to every creature.

My focus here this morning is to address what is meant by “world.” And how do we “go into” all the world? The short answer is that the world is where the people are.

When These Words Were Spoken:

When Jesus spoke these words, going into the world meant what we would call travel (going from one place to another yourself), and it meant communication across distance (going from one place to another by means of media). Media at the time largely meant letters, or epistles. We still have the same basic options—travel and media. The passage of time has not changed the options, but has rather simply changed the ease and speed of those options. We travel with much greater ease, and we communicate with people on the other side of the world with much greater ease. But we are still following these two basic options.

Now, as before, there are people who use both options wisely. But now, as then, there are people who talk big, but do little else. Then, as now, there were bookworms and basement dudes, hiding from the world through lofty sounding books, posts, tweets, or whatnot, and all because they were scared of girls. As Solomon once put it, there is nothing new under the sun.

So what should we bring with us when we travel? What should we send with our messages when we write? The answer is Jesus, but this must be understood rightly. This does not mean that all your Facebook posts have be pictures of saints with three halos, or that your web site has to play Gregorian chant in the background.

The fact is that mankind is created as a tool-making creature. Adam was created naked, but given the magnitude of the task he was given—which included digging mines, sailing oceans, and climbing mountains—the creation of tools was a necessity. This means that when we make tools, whether plows and shovels, smoke signals or iPhones, we are not violating our essential humanity. Rather we are expressing it. Contrary to the theory of evolution, we are not over-developed animals who moved away from the “natural” and into the “artificial.” For man, the artificial is natural. We want nothing to do with Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Ten minutes after Adam figured out what that honeycomb was, he started looking around for a stick.

Scattering What You Have:

Now wherever Christians go, they go as themselves. “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only” (Acts 11:19).

Wherever hypocrites go, they also go as themselves. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).

Your country can only export whatever it is your farmers are growing. When you go somewhere, or when you send a message somewhere, you are simply projecting what you already are. If you are a bore and a bellygod, then social media will simply enable you to engage in some digital scribbling so that people in New Zealand can, if they wish, read about your grumbles over lunch.

But if you are alive, vibrant, and forgiven, we now live in a world where you can project that.

Times of Refreshing:

The gospel is not some tiresome thing that door-to-door salesmen try to talk you into. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). We are actually talking about a cool breeze that blows off the ocean of God’s infinite pleasure and delight. We are talking about times of refreshing, and if we are not talking about times of refreshing then we are not talking about the gospel as presented in Scripture.

Piety is delighted, and delightful. Godliness is free in its enjoyment of the pleasures of God. Obedience is liberty. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is quite true—whatever you eat or drink, on whatever day, for whatever meal. This includes, of course, the French fries, but that does not mean that you are to stand on the restaurant chair in order to thank God that you are not like other men, the ones who do not glorify God for the French fries.

The grace of God is good. Do not be like that nun that Brother Lawrence referred to, the one who wanted to be “faster than grace.” This is how we run headlong into scruples and fussing and wowserism. Enjoy your life, the one Christ has given you. And it is not possible to do this without enjoying Christ Himself.

Two Meanings for “Share”:

The charge against the early disciples was that they had “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching. “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28).

We do not have pastors and evangelists as hired guns to do all the evangelism for us. They are trained and equipped so that they can prepare God’s people for works of service (Eph. 4:12). The saints are to do the work of ministry, not at the same level as someone gifted or trained. But all of us are involved. And to be honest, how much training does it take to share or retweet something?

It is not a matter of this technique or that one, this Internet trick or that one, but rather experiencing the presence of Christ in your life and communicating that. Who is the Lord Jesus? Who is this king of glory? He is, among many other things, the Lord of the Internet. His lordship and His offered forgiveness should therefore be proclaimed there. Why would it not be? Is the world there? Are unforgiven creatures there?

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Categories: People I don't know

Rough Edges

Sat, 18/02/2017 - 15:36

Learning to live in genuine community is one of the central goals that we have set for ourselves. And, to be honest, we did not set the goal—it is set before us in Scripture as one of the basic elements of the Christian faith. We are one in Jesus Christ, and this is not to be limited to Sunday morning when everyone is wearing their best clothes, when pretty much everyone took a shower, and everyone is on their best behavior. This is the place where we are woven into community, but the thing is not supposed to come unraveled as we are pulling out of the parking lot.

But community on Monday morning . . . that’s another thing. And Thursday afternoon can be even more difficult. Because living in community is what takes the rough edges off . . . but before it takes the rough edges off, living in community reveals those rough edges.

Some of you are regularly late to things. Some of you don’t return things that you have borrowed in a timely way. Some of you think that community means other people baby-sitting for you. Some of you think that community means that your business doesn’t have to honor delivery dates, or honor your word in other respects. Some of you think that community means having a right to be a grouch. Some of you think that community means flirting with all the sisters, or with all the brothers as the case may be.

Community brings all this out, but community, over time, is also supposed to deal with it.

We are tangled up in one another’s lives, and this is as it ought to be. But we are not tangled up so that we would surrender to various forms of thoughtlessness.

Confronting this kind of thing as appropriate, covering it in love as appropriate, is the training ground that God has given to us. We are a rag tag collection of forgiven sinners, and a number of us have some messy things lying about in our lives. The task before us is to pick up, and to help one another do so in all patience.

So patience does not mean leaving it alone. Addressing it firmly does not mean impatience. And learning how to do this is one of God’s great gifts to us.

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Categories: People I don't know

Covenantal Presence

Sat, 18/02/2017 - 15:18

The apostle tells us that all the Jews in the wilderness drank the same spiritual drink. They all drank from the same spiritual Rock that followed them, the Rock that was Christ.

But with many, he says, God was not pleased. They were overthrown in the wilderness. In the same way, certain members of the church at Corinth were overthrown in their wilderness, and did not enter into the promised land of the Christian aeon. They came up out of Egypt, but (in a figure) died during the forty years between the crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of the old Jerusalem. They did not enter in because of unbelief. But the fact they did not enter in to the promised land did not keep them from communing with Christ in the wilderness. They did commune with Him in their unbelief, just as the Jews had done in a type.

When we look at the Jews in the wilderness and the Corinthians in their wilderness, we want to draw a contrast—everything must be different in the new covenant, we say—but Paul teaches that in this respect, everything is the same.

And so we reason by analogy to a third set of circumstances. The bread from heaven was Christ, but so was the bread of the land, so was the milk and honey.

This is our situation. Everyone in this room who partakes of the bread and the wine partakes of the same bread and the same wine. Christ is not present for the one who has faith, but absent from the one who does not have faith. Rather, He is present covenantally for both. His covenant presence is an enormous, glorious blessing for those who come in simple child-like faith. His presence is terrible for those who trifle with Him, and who think that He does not see.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

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Categories: People I don't know

Review: Homiletics and Pastoral Theology

Sat, 18/02/2017 - 00:03

Homiletics and Pastoral Theology
Homiletics and Pastoral Theology by William Greenough Thaye Shedd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The content was really good, but the 19th century stiffness could afford to unbend a little. But still, I read it all the way through.

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Categories: People I don't know

Sticking to the Basics

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 23:58

“Sorry to get into all the deep theology here but the Christian faith means calling everyone to believe in Jesus” (Empires of Dirt, p. 32).

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Categories: People I don't know

Side Effects May Include Throwing Rocks at the Moon

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 23:54

“You can still see the modernist idol at work in the television advertisements for the newest Big Pharma drugs. You know the kind—where the fine print of ad copy was written by lawyers with a gruesome turn of mind? ‘Side effects may include writing on the living room floor, chewing on the coffee table leg, and vomiting up blood.’ I can’t really say I have felt enticed to try MadcowMyrica myself. Side effects may also include sitting in two claw foot bathtubs in odd, open air locations” (Food Catholic, p. 38).

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Categories: People I don't know

The Democracy of the Dead

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 23:43

“Conservatism is dead and deadening, only upon the hypothesis, that the universal history of man is the realm of death” (Shedd, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 384).

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Categories: People I don't know

Dogs of Refinement

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 18:57

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Categories: People I don't know

The Field of Battle is Not an Army

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 04:27

“Traditional values can’t fight sin, for the same reason that healthy tissue can’t fight cancer, but is rather the tissue that provides cancer with its scope and future” (Empires of Dirt, p. 31).

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Categories: People I don't know

Reciprocal Stink Eye

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 04:21

In the fifties, if a woman breastfed her baby, she was thought to be acting like a savage, like she wanted to get photographed for National Geographic or something. Why didn’t she do the right thing for her baby and give her this scientific formula in a can? That modernistic hubris really was something—just as bad as the postmodern hubris we are dealing with now. In the fifties, the woman who breastfed her baby was a woman who got the stink eye. Today it would be the woman who uses formula who gets the stink eye—whether or not she had reasonable grounds for doing so. Now as a pastor my concern is with the stink eye part, and not with monitoring how many calories the babies are getting” (Food Catholic, p. 37).

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Categories: People I don't know

The Content Cluster Muster (02.16.17)

Thu, 16/02/2017 - 17:00

Is Genesis History?

This movie is coming out in a few weeks (Feb. 23); and it would be worth your while to find out if it is showing at a cinema near you and go out to support it.

The Case for Christ

This is another film worth looking forward to!

The Change We Need

No Regerts

You know how I feel about tattoos

*Blinks* What Did I Just Watch?!

An eagle takes off with a full grown deer.


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Categories: People I don't know

The Hot Politics of the Moment

Thu, 16/02/2017 - 15:12

So now would be a good time for all of us to listen to Rand Paul on big data security concerns. And here is why.

Michael Flynn has just stepped down as the president’s National Security Advisor. My concern is not whether he was wise or foolish in his interaction with the Russians, or whether he completely misrepresented himself to the vice-president or not, or whether the president was right to seek his resignation or not. My concern is not with the decisions that have been made, but how it came about that a decision had to be made.

Before he was part of the government, before he was sworn in, his phone conversations with foreigners were recorded. Those conversations were then subsequently leaked and the controversy ensued.

What this means is that someone in the intelligence community, with access to the surveillance data that is routinely collected, released some of that data in the interests of a political agenda. It does not matter for my purposes if that political agenda is wise or foolish. It is simply that this information was released for political purposes, and the person who released it is not in jail. This is all we really need to know.

When we have had our debates about big data collection, and some of us have worried about the illicit weaponization of such information, the reassurances come back. That doesn’t happen. There are protections. We have firewalls. Yeah, right. Where are they in this instance?

So when the “protections” are violated, as they manifestly have been in this situation, the hot politics of the moment overwhelm any and all process concerns. The person who leaked from the big data reservoir is an honorable “whistle-blower.” The politics of taking down Trump a few notches overshadow the glaringly obvious fact that the government is in control of information that it will never be able to handle responsibly.

We have an example of a case of abuse, sitting right in front of us, kind of on fire, and it is the kind of abuse some of us predicted just a few months ago, and fans of the surveillance state said no, no, no, it doesn’t work that way, and now here we are. What are you going to do? What are you going to say?

Not only do the advocates of the deep state shrug, but so also the general population shrugs. But there is only one way to keep this reservoir of data from leaking in this way, and that is to make sure that the only data in the reservoir is there because someone obtained a warrant after showing probable cause.

If you protest that national security requires megadata collection, I ask if megadata collection itself presents any threat to national security. If you tell me that our intelligence agencies are honorable and would never do anything like this, then I will wonder (out loud) why they just did do something like this. And I will wonder further why there has not been an arrest. You have data on Michael Flynn but have no data on the person or persons unknown who took him out at the knees? Maybe you guys are watching the wrong people.

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Categories: People I don't know

When Envy Tells

Wed, 15/02/2017 - 16:52

I received a kind inquiry recently, asking me to put some flesh on the bones of what I presented here. What does it look like in the actual midst of a mimetic snarl? In short, how can you tell the difference between you being the problem (attributing motives to others in self-flattering ways) and the other person being the problem (driven by mimetic envy, and so on)?

Let me begin with a couple principles, add a few criteria, and then describe an (imaginary) scenario.

First, how you can know this is related to how you can know anything. And the fundamental answer is this: walk with God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). The people who live with you (not necessarily the same people who see you twice a year at conferences) should be able to testify that you are someone who speaks and acts graciously, that you confess your sins as necessary, that you do not despise wisdom and instruction, and so on. Fear the Lord, and act like you do. If you do this, He will teach you things (Ps. 25:14). He will enable you to see things that you could not see before.

Second, dispense with the idea that envy is by definition invisible. Get rid of the idea that it can never be seen with the eyes. Like all sin, envy can be hidden and lied about. But also like all sin, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34). Hidden envy can become manifest just as hidden lust or hatred can be. Take a look at the picture here—is the envy invisible?

The malicious envy of the Jewish leaders was so plain that even Pilate could see it. “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matt. 27:18; Mk. 15:10).

“And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).

In short, when you are learning to see envy, it is not the equivalent of trying to see Farley’s ghost. It is more like learning to read the story you are in, and applying to the events on the playground what we naturally and readily do when watching a movie. And speaking of the playground, one of the things we do is we train this natural instinct out of our children in a misguided attempt to be “spiritual.”

Say that a particular child is consistently rude and unkind to your child. Do you try to minimize it, telling your child that some people are “just bullies”? Or do you help your child to see why this is happening? Your child is cute and this child is not. Your child’s parents love each other and this other child’s parents are in the middle of a nasty divorce. Your child is on the honor roll and this other child isn’t.

And all these things seem to us (automatically) like special pleading, cooking up imaginary explanations for why this other person must be envious. How do you know that? Here it is, a real kick in the teeth. Once you learn to see envy you will realize (after the fact) that three out of four times the person concerned will have told you what the issue is. Has the bully said to your child anything like, “You think you’re so pretty . . .”

No kidding. The person will usually tell you or will tell somebody.

“Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams” (Gen. 37:20).

They knew they hated Joseph, they knew why they hated Joseph, and they said.

Everybody assumes that since envy is invisible that it must remain that way, no matter how much you talk. But it is frequently right there, out on the table. You are counseling someone, and they never say my sister. They always say my older sister. Pay close attention to what people say. Then when you ask questions accordingly, they think you are psychic.

So here are some criteria to use, if you need to decide whether to start looking for this kind of thing.

First, you should start running diagnostics in this area when you find yourself in the middle of a conflict that makes no sense. When the difficulty is inexplicable, and you have the question “where could this conflict have come from,” consider the possibility that James 4, which contains this question (Jas. 4:1), also contains the answer (Jas. 4:5). The spirit in us veers toward envy, like the front end of an automobile that needs to be aligned.

Second, you should evaluate this possibility when you find yourself in conflict with someone you used to be very close to. Conflict arises between close friends as much or as more as between strangers. You used to be the best of friends. What happened? You were not driven apart by the fact that you had nothing in common. You were driven apart because you had so much in common. Take it this way.  When you were in college, you were peers. Everything was the same. Now, ten years after college, say that you are well ahead—married to a beautiful woman, three kids, great job, etc. If you are walking in humility, you are likely not to have noticed these things because you were not keeping score. People who are that far ahead don’t need to keep score. But the fact that you don’t think it is a big deal doesn’t mean that your former peer doesn’t think it is a big deal.

Third, you should begin to think this way if you start noticing random comments, comments that don’t fit with your understanding of your earlier narrative with that person. If, when you are 35, your younger brother says, mostly jokingly, that your dad always liked you best, take notice of it. The fact that this is the first time you have heard this does not mean that it is the first time it was said. And even if it is the first time it was said, it is most certainly not the first time it was thought. If you are in a conflict, or if it looks like it is something that might become a conflict, act like you have eyes in your head. Look for clues. And by clues, I do not mean things that could be consistent with mimetic envy if you squint at them in a dim light. I mean things that reveal what is going on. There is often a lame attempt to camouflage the envy by projecting an accusation of pride in the revelatory comment. “Your problem is that you think you are above correction” might well mean “Your problem is that you wouldn’t listen if I tried to tear you down.”

Special note: The fact that you now see something plainly is not God’s invitation to share it with everybody. You might be making things far, far worse. “Are you saying I’m jealous? Of you?” One has felt, reading through Genesis, on more than one occasion, that Joseph ought to have been a little less exuberant in the relating of his dreams.

So take this for our scenario. A couple of young men are working together on staff for a church. They get along well together, and are very close for a couple of years. One of them then marries the pastor’s daughter. Six months later, the pastor mentions from the pulpit that he has begun to think about retirement, maybe “in a few years.” Three months after that, the married fellow finds himself in a snarl with the deacons over what software the church should buy for running the office. The unmarried church staffer is very close with two of the deacons.

Here is your pencil. Connect the dots. You have ten minutes.

The post When Envy Tells appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

But the Happily Part Takes Work

Tue, 14/02/2017 - 16:26

I was privileged to contribute three of the devotionals in this book of 30 devotionals for married couples. Other contributors include Francis Chan, John Piper, David Mathis, and more. It is published by Desiring God, and they are currently running a Valentine Day special on it. All this being the case, why wouldn’t you head on over to this linkagery and check it out?

The post But the Happily Part Takes Work appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know