Gold Star Friday

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

From the bookshelf:  The Maker Versus the Takers:  What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics by Jerry Bowyer.  This book is excellent.  Bowyer studied Jesus’ sermons on wealth in their geographic contexts, focusing on the different economies of Judea vs. Galilee.  This is a unique approach, and Bowyer makes a compelling case that Jesus tailored his message to his audience.

The Terror of Existence:  From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd by Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis.  An atheist and a Christian review various literary works that touch on the vanity of life, including Waiting for Godot, Catcher in the Rye, Death of Ivan Ilych, etc., and of course, Ecclesiastes.  It’s a little disconcerting that the atheist (Dalrymple) is the better writer.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in existentialism, especially including college students taking a philosophy class. 

From the link list: 

Kevin DeYoung, a voice for reason: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/come-let-us-reason-together/

Christopher Ash on coping with COVID and chaos:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/disciplines-dark-days/

August Meyrat on screen addiction:  https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/14/we-need-to-kill-screens-for-much-bigger-reasons-than-censorship/; related long-but-thoughful rant:  https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/everything-is-broken

LSU Law Professor on critical race theory:  https://travismcneely.com/2021/01/01/1874/

SD Governor Noem:  https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/08/the-republican-party-has-failed-america/

“Nature” finds a way: https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/15/its-natural-for-women-to-choose-family-over-high-powered-jobs-so-why-wont-the-left-just-let-them/

When you abandon the natural family:  https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/11/your-cousin-watching-your-onlyfans-is-the-epitome-of-americas-sexual-chaos/; related https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/11/title-ix-has-turned-universities-into-really-terrible-sex-police/

FOR MORE INFORMATION…

For my books, see: I Will Meditate on Your Precepts (Psalm 119) and The Passion of Job

For my articles, see: The Federalist,  The Gospel Coalition,  and Servants of Grace.  New articles coming soon! Finally, if you like fantasy, please support my son, author Zeppy Cheng at his Amazon page.  He has a new book coming out (at some point!) with Dingbat Publishing, which is very exciting.

Zayin (Year 2)

Psalm 119:50:  “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”

John’s dad passed on Christmas morning.  We called to say Merry Christmas! but there was no answer.  After a couple hours, John’s sister went to check his house.  He was gone.  In times like these, we think about how short life is, and how sad, and how messed up.  What can comfort us in our mourning?  Why bother doing anything, if death will be the final chapter?   

The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, puts it beautifully:  “What is your only comfort in life and death?  That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with his previous blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil…  Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

The psalmist, living a thousand years before Christ, did not have the full picture of our comfort.  Yet he looked forward in faith, believing that death was not the end.  He trusted the promise given to him:  when we grow faint, God’s word will renew our life. 

Prayer:  Lord, you are our only comfort.  We cling to your promise that gives us life.  In our affliction, help us remain faithful to you, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Waw (Year 2)

Psalm 119:42 “…then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.”

Who would taunt a psalmist — especially one who writes so sincerely and beautifully?  Shouldn’t an inspired author of Scripture get recognition and awards?  Yet our psalmist gets cancelled instead.  Jesus says, don’t be surprised by this (John 15:20).  When we walk in obedience, we should expect resistance.  If Christ was mocked, his followers will be also.

Persecution is just an opportunity to practice faithfulness, and our psalmist leads the way.  He doesn’t react in violence – vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19).  But he also doesn’t ignore his attackers.  Instead, he seeks to give “an answer.” 

Where does the psalmist get his answer?  He doesn’t rely on intellectual firepower, or intensive study and research.  Looking at the prior verse (v. 43), we see the psalmist relying on the character and works of God:  his unfailing love, his promised salvation.  The psalmist is not anxious, but hopeful.  Because he trusts in God’s word, he is prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15).

Prayer:  Lord, keep us from chasing the praise of men.  When we are attacked, help us not be anxious or defensive.  Please send us your Holy Spirit, to remind us of your word and teach us what to say (Luke 12:11-12).

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Gold Star Friday

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

From the bookshelf:  Miracle on Voodoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux.  In 2011, Megan moved to Haiti.  She had a clear call from God, but no clear plan.  Within a few short years, she established Respire Haiti, a thriving education and medical ministry for poor Haitian children, including child slaves.

Based on my experience with international missions, rapid and successful ministry growth is a true miracle.  How do we explain it?  (1) The supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  (2) The prayers of the local church.  Megan discovered that the local Haitian church had been praying for God to send someone for 12 years, since she was 12 years old! (3) The desperate need.  (4) Megan’s willingness to sell everything and go.  I commend this lovely and convicting memoir to you.

From the link list: 

Read More Bible:  https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-become-passionate-about-bible-reading; related:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/get-more-from-the-bible-this-year

Now go put it into practice!  https://gentlereformation.com/2021/01/02/domestic-systematic-theology/; related:  https://glimpseofinfinity.com/journals/dont-be-an-esau/

Toward a robust theology of suffering:  https://www.challies.com/articles/grief-should-always-make-us-better/

Keep the end in mind:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/the-secret-of-good-vs-better/

Straight talk for women from Suzanne Venker:  https://www.eviemagazine.com/post/marriage-minded-women-are-in-desperate-need-of-dating-advice-here-you-go/ (Suzanne writes from a reasoned but secular perspective).

What should racial justice look like?  https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/04/u-chicago-science-professor-under-assault-for-criticizing-no-white-men-hiring-rules/; related law review article by Professor Gail Heriot:  https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php

Excellent and much needed reminder:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/resist-pharisee-temptation/

My expanded essay on LGBTQ children’s books in the library: https://everymancommentary.com/lgbt-propaganda-in-the-childrens-section-of-the-library/ (this article was turned down by The Federalist but picked up by The Everyman).

FOR MORE INFORMATION…

For my books, see: I Will Meditate on Your Precepts (Psalm 119) and The Passion of Job

For my articles, see: The Federalist,  The Gospel Coalition,  and Servants of Grace.  New articles coming soon! Finally, if you like fantasy, please support my son, author Zeppy Cheng at his Amazon page.  He has a new book coming out (at some point!) with Dingbat Publishing, which is very exciting.

He (Year 2)

Psalm 119:34:  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Today myriad bureaucratic agencies are churning out COVID regulations.   As an attorney, part of my job is to help clients comply.  But sometimes — especially in California — the rules are so tangled they hurt my brain.  How can we follow laws we don’t understand?

Of course, there is a big difference between God’s law and bureaucratic red tape.  I can seek forever and not find “wondrous things” in the California COVID regs.  And my lack of comprehension is not due to poor legal training or mental deficiency.  When multiple agencies at multiple levels of government try to draft complex rules quickly, snarls are inevitable.

My clients want to understand the technicalities, so they can comply and not get in trouble.  But the psalmist wants something entirely different.  He wants the kind of understanding that will leave to whole-hearted obedience, an understanding that includes wonder and appreciation.  And he believes God will give that understanding to him.

Prayer:  God, when we treat your word like a dry set of rules, stop us!  Give us understanding, not for the sake of outward compliance, but for the sake of whole-hearted obedience that pleases you.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Daleth (Year 2)

Psalm 119:26:  “When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!”

A young man celebrates his anniversary of sobriety.  Then, during a bout of loneliness, he goes out and gets stinking drunk.  He becomes distant from his parents and friends back home, who sense that something is wrong.  Finally, the young man tells his tale, comes clean again.  Secret shame loses its power in the light.

The psalmist does not hide his ways from God.  Of course, God already knows when we mess up.  Yet confession is part of the rhythm of the Christian life (1 John 1:9).  When we keep our mouth shut, when we avoid talking to God, our spiritual life shrivels (Psalm 32:3-5).  We can’t cover up our sins and stay in relationship with Christ.  In fact, hiding our sins is a hopeless endeavor anyway — our darkest secrets will come out (Numbers 32:23).

Here is wonderful news:  God answers when we cry to him.  He lowers himself to our level, forgives our sin.  The blood of Christ covers our shame.  But the conversation doesn’t end there.  The psalmist responds to God, teach me your word! Help me do better! We cling to the promise that God must and will continue his good work in our lives (Philippians 1:6). 

Prayer:  Lord, we don’t want to hide our sins any longer.  We have failed you over and over, as you well know.  Thank you for the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ.  Thank you that you are faithful. Please help us be faithful, too.

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Gimel (Year 2)

Psalm 119:18:  “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

The bald-headed baby fidgets and frets in his bouncy chair.  Then dad slips something over his head – a pair of glasses, with blue plastic frames.   Baby’s eyes grow wide, and he breaks into a huge smile.  He sees something wondrous for the first time:  his mother’s face.

When we read God’s word, what do we see?  Something dry and boring, something confused and out of focus, perhaps even something distasteful?  The problem is not God’s word.  On our own, squinting, we just can’t make out God’s story. 

There are wonderful treasures living in the Scriptures.  God gave us eyes, he gave us minds, he gave us written language just so we could see and enjoy these things.  But physical ability and mental capacity are not enough.  We need the Holy Spirit to supernaturally open our eyes (John 14:26).

Prayer:  Lord, please give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.  Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we can see wonderful things: our hope, our glorious inheritance, achieved by your immeasurably great power (Ephesians 1:17-19).  Let us read your word and behold the face of Christ.

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Beth (Year 2)

Psalm 119 v. 10:  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

This past spring, when the lockdowns first started, our two youngest sons came home from college to quarantine.  And they came home hungry!  Our stockpiled pantry did not last long.  Many times, after we had all eaten dinner together, I would catch Daniel or Jacob opening the fridge to see what morsels might have survived.

A true believer has a hungry heart (Matthew 5:6).  The Holy Spirit awakens us to seek Christ, to desire Christ whole-heartedly.  When our hearts are cold toward God and his word, when our hearts are crowded with lust for the things of this world, we must cry for help immediately!  That is when we need God’s defibrillating paddles, to shock us back into our proper rhythm.

A seeking heart will keep us on the path of God’s word.  When we desire God over all things, we are less likely to wander from his commands.  This creates a positive feedback loop — the more we love God, the more we obey him, the more we attain what we desire:  God’s presence with us.  And the more we experience God’s presence, the more our love for him grows.

Prayer:  Lord, change our hearts to desire you above all things.  Teach us that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word from your mouth (Matthew 4:4).  Help us persevere in faithful obedience, and satisfy us with your presence. 

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Aleph (Year 2)

Psalm 119:2: “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart…”

My father-in-law passed on Christmas morning, 2020.  It was a sad end to a sad and frustrating year.  With COVID, lockdowns, social unrest, and political division, 2020 feels cursed by God.  Yet such disasters are only a warning, a foretaste of what God’s judgment of the wicked will be like (Luke 13:1-5).

So where do we find God’s blessing?  Psalm 119 speaks to us clearly, that blessings come from keeping God’s word.  When we rebel against God’s commands, or simply ignore them, we put ourselves at risk of an eternal, infinitely amplified 2020.  But when we obey, we experience the blessing of God’s presence now, with hope of heaven to follow.

Note that God requires a particular kind of obedience.  We can’t follow Christ half-heartedly, out of a sense of duty, wishing we were doing something else.  Instead, we are called to seek him with our whole hearts.  When we read God’s word, we should experience eagerness, even desperation.  We are looking for the most valuable thing in the world:  God’s own presence.

Prayer:  Lord, we ask for your blessing to remain faithful.  Let us seek you first above all things (Matthew 6:33).  Let our hearts be full of your word, with no room for rebellious thoughts.

For further study, see Psalm 119 for January 2020, as well as my devotional on Psalm 119.

Gold Star 2021 Friday

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

Happy New Year!  I am planning a January series on Psalm 119 for 2021 (the sequel to Psalm 119 for 2020).  Other goals include an in-depth study of Lamentations – another Bible acrostic — as well as a book for young women considering issues of career and family.  May Christ be Lord of all our goals and resolutions.

From the bookshelf:  Based on multiple positive reviews, I have been reading the Swedish novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  The main character (Ove) is an old curmudgeon who recently lost his wife and his job.  The story of Ove’s redemption, at the hands of his neighbors, is quite poignant and charming.  At the same time, there are politically correct elements (including an LBGTQ plotline) that detract from the story.  I also felt the book does not treat the topic of suicide with sufficient seriousness – Ove’s multiple failed attempts to join his wife in death are a kind of running joke.  It’s too bad the book is such a mixed bag, because the themes of honoring the elderly and neighborliness are much needed these days.

From the link list: 

Trying to get more done in 2021?  Doug Wilson on “Ploductivity”:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-of-christ-for-all-of-life/id1452945257?i=1000503954862

Greg Morse blowing the trumpet of warning once again:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-dangerous-love-of-ease

Trying to read more Bible?  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-bible-is-a-lifelong-project

I’m saving this link for when we get grandkids:  https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/dangerous-article-boys/ (list of books for boys)

Part one of a series on faith and work:  http://jeffhaanen.com/2020/12/23/why-faith-work-pt-1-gospel/

Cancel culture reaching back into ancient history: https://www.wsj.com/articles/even-homer-gets-mobbed-11609095872  

FOR MORE INFORMATION…

For my books, see: I Will Meditate on Your Precepts (Psalm 119) and The Passion of Job

For my articles, see: The Federalist,  The Gospel Coalition,  and Servants of Grace.  New articles coming soon! Finally, if you like fantasy, please support my son, author Zeppy Cheng at his Amazon page.  He has a new book coming out (at some point!) with Dingbat Publishing, which is very exciting.