Music

     The more I listen to, discuss, study, and worship through the beautiful God-given art that is music, the less tolerance I have for things that lack passion, myself included. The angry, harsh screams of the metal genre channel a rage that’s pointed and freeing; the sad, whiny cries of the emo genre lament about sorrows that are relatable and tangible; the expressive, artistic poetry of the hip-hop/rap genre offers a window into a subculture foreign to me. These expressions are born from passion, from suffering, from hardship—not unlike many of David’s psalms or Job’s replies to those around him. Of course, these whole genres are not to be praised but rather the artists that represent those genres well (check out Oh, Sleeper​, Real Friends​, and Kendrick Lamar​).
     When looking at any art form or cultural expression, the temptation is always to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially for evangelicals. Yes, a lot of metal is empty and stupid, a lot of emo music is laughable and melodramatic, and a lot of rap is deplorable and repetitive. But not all of it. And this is true of more than just whole genres, but artists themselves.
     I’ve found that (almost) any song or movie or book is redeemable if you’re willing to get past language that you’re uncomfortable with and embrace subject matter that won’t be found on Disney Channel. Look beyond Drake​’s radio singles that praise money and sex and you’ll hear him sing, “Time after time after time, money’s all I get and there’s still money on my mind but I ain’t ever satisfied” on Future’s ‘Never Satisfied,’ or beyond Bring Me the Horizon’s very explicit, anti-religious lyrics and you’ll find a man searching for something and someone more on their song ‘Drown’: “Who will fix me now? Save me from myself, don’t let me drown.” Both of these ‘secular’ artists make very biblical points: all the money in the world won’t satisfy you and no man can fix or save you.
     This approach to music is not merely for personal enjoyment, it comes with evangelistic intent, too. When unbelievers see us damning Katy Perry’s music on the basis of being ‘non-Christian’ or perhaps overly sexual, they don’t focus on that, they see us rejecting a person and the good art that they make. Again, yes, we should recognize that the content isn’t praiseworthy, but without communicating that Katy Perry is beyond the grace of God or that the pop music she gives to the world is not as great and catchy as it is (even if you hate radio pop). Moreover, if we can show the world that Christians in fact celebrate people, good art, and God-given truth regardless of where it’s found or who it comes from, then we represent the Lord well and we shatter misconceptions of what the Lord is doing in this world.
     Refuse to settle for surface-level art forms and dispassionate musicians, directors, and authors. We have so much to learn from different people of foreign backgrounds and far away cultures with new insights into life, the Lord, and the human condition. Great music, great cinema, and great literature should be celebrated as great gifts from the Lord.

First Things First

FirstThingsFirst

We cannot overemphasize things of highest importance. But, conversely, we can overemphasize that which is of secondary value, though equally necessary or true. All truth is true (duh), all necessities are necessary (duh), but not all truth and necessities are of equal importance. This should be fairly obvious.

Think Jesus’ emphasis on the Greatest Commandment, “Love God, love people,” or his words to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, hypocrites! For you tithe, yet have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Or Paul, “Now faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is love” and “of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…” Followers of Christ should be known not for nitpicking things of secondary importance, but rather for embodying the love of the crucified Lord of creation. My cynicism aside, this is generally my biggest frustration with Christians on social networking.

Sharing Christ is more important than damning homosexuality or a sin you particularly dislike; worshipping the Lord is more important than singing songs to your musical or theological preference; loving your neighbor is more important than arguing against his political views; identifying with the broken body of Christ is more important than identifying with Texas pride or the Cowboys; living out New Testament ethics is more important than captioning a Bible verse with your selfies and Instagram bio; contributing to the church is more important than complaining that you can’t consume what you’d like from it; damning global injustice is more important than bashing Obama; demonstrating authenticity through weakness is more important than faking the happiness and strength that you don’t always have; celebrating great music and cinema is more important than hiding from anything with the F word in it; being an agent of change is more important than voicing what’s wrong with our generation; and evaluating me based on how I love God and love people is more important than thinking I’m solid because I post a Facebook status you like.

C.S. Lewis writes, “When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” We should not neglect things of secondary importance; and I cannot draw a universal line and define what’s of greatest and least value. But, I can echo Christ’s words in the sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

“The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.

The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only temporary pleasurable) levels of intoxication.

It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But, clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?

Of course this law has been discovered before, but should stand re-discovered. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made…You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.”

– C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics

My Tattoos

These are all my tattoos and their meanings, in order of when I got them. Click each picture to get a better look. See this post for an understanding of tattoos.


TasteAndSee

Done by Jeremy Maxfield at Elite Tattoo Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas (July 2013). “Taste and see that the LORD is good,” Psalm 34:8. I just wanted a reminder of God’s constant goodness. Dang, God’s so good.


BindMyWandering

Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (November 2013).”Bind my wandering heart to Thee,” a line from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount. This tattoo represents my favorite hymn, my love for beautiful art devoted to the Lord (like many classic hymns), and the meaning of the line itself is a plea to the Lord to bind our hearts to Him, as we fickly wander toward sin and worldliness away from that which satisfies.


Kingdom

Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (March 2014). The crown represents our union with Christ; Paul would call us “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), or viceroys: representatives of an authority not our own. We wear the crown that Christ has earned and purchased with His blood. The castle is a reminder of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, that the Lord is preparing for us (Revelation 21:2), and ultimately a reminder of God’s presence, as God will dwell with us (Revelation 21:3). God’s dwelling with man was once full in the Garden of Eden, broken after the Fall and relegated to the Tabernacle, then the Temple, then the Church, and will finally be fully restored in the new Earth. See T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem for a better understanding of God’s presence and man’s viceregency. The roses and background are just aesthetic, at the artists’ choice. I love letting the artist freely design his artwork, as he’s likely to design something to the best of his ability when given little limitations. And Cody’s awesome.


Sword

Done by Cody Dresser at Dallas Tattoo & Arts in Dallas, Texas (July 2014). There’s a ton of sword imagery all throughout the New Testament, e.g. “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), “He does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), “the word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), etc. Thus, several motifs are implied but ultimately the tattoo points to the face that we exercise the authority of the Lord, the same Lord who tells us He came to this world not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34).


AllNations

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (September 2014). This tattoo is a reminder of God’s bigness, and our obligation to reach the nations. He’s not merely the God of Dallas, or Texas, or the Bible Belt, or America, or even the world, he reigns over all creation. “All nations” is a phrase that occurs some 200+ times in the Bible, most commonly recognized in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus, we’re called to take the gospel of God’s kingdom to all nations, not just where we’re comfortable or the places with God-fearing churches on every corner. There are soooo many unreached nations, in urgent need of Jesus.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (November 2014). The tattoo is on a curving part of my forearm so it’s a bit difficult to get a good picture, which is why the photo above is actually two merged together. This tattoo relates to my anxiety, that is, when I’m not trusting the Lord. The words and imagery all come from Matthew 6, part of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). When I’m seeking the Lord, I don’t need to worry about money or school or work or whatever; I don’t mean that I neglect diligence and responsibility in those respective areas I may worry about, rather, I trust the Lord with them knowing that He is good and He is in control. Further, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). The bird is a reminder that if God’s taking care of mere birds, then He’s got me. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:20-21). The heart in the lamp is a reminder that if I’m treasuring those things that are bound to fail me, I will reap worry and struggle, but if I’m treasuring the Lord, I will not fret. God’s good, and I’ve got every reason to trust Him and His goodness.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (December 2014). A chalice or goblet with blood spilling out, most obviously associated with communion (read Matthew 26:26-29). Beyond the more obvious meaning, this tattoo is a reminder to strive for compassion. I serve a God of great and deep compassion, but often I demonstrate much apathy and cynicism rather than a concern for others. Compassion, ‘com-‘ meaning “with” and ‘passion’ meaning “to suffer,” literally means “to suffer with,” and like Christ has suffered with us and drank the cup of wrath that the Father has given Him (Matthew 26:38-39, 42; John 18:11), I want to strive to emulate that compassion daily, suffer with those around me, and to demonstrate love for God and people.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (December 2014). First tattoo of mine to not yet have a ‘meaning,’ I guess I’m open to suggestions. I just told him to do an arrow, and he did this. Good art looks dope.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). In this piece, the snake symbolizes the enemy, the candle symbolizes time. The length of our short life is like that of a burning candle, and satan aims to get a stranglehold on our time in so many different ways, that it wouldn’t be used for the Lord. Ultimately, life is war and time is precious; we cannot waste a second.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). In general, this tattoo is a reminder of wisdom. Chess is historically considered a “wise man’s game,” or associated with nobility and intelligence. Wisdom is a necessity in the Christian life, taking all that we know and sifting through what life throws at us day by day. Moreover, the knight alternates black and white spaces with each move, similar to how we make ‘moves’ throughout life alternating between the head and the heart.


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Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (March 2015). This is Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, I freaking love this movie. My love for studying and enjoying culture manifests itself in good music (Drake, Bring Me the Horizon, etc.), good TV shows (Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, etc.), and good movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy. Good art glorifies God, and I wanted to engrave a reminder of the good gifts that God gives us through good movies, songs, books, shows, on and on I could go.


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Done by Joseph Ayala at Saints and Sinners in Carrollton, Texas (April 2015). The verse is Leviticus 19:28, which states: “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.” I got this because people often quote this verse, ripped of its proper context, mistaking it to forbid Christians from marking their bodies, i.e. tattoos. For one, this verse is written to the Israelites. This is part of the Law, given by God to His chosen people, to obey, yes. And were Jesus never to come and the Lord to never intend a plan of redemption that freed us from the Law and the New Testament never be written and I be born into the country of Israel, then I would be required to obey it. But the New Testament is replete with the fact that Christ came and fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), freed us from it (Romans 7:6), and instituted the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15). This is a major aspect of the gospel, and far more important than freeing us merely to get tattoos. I got this as a controversial, trolling, tongue-in-cheek way of pointing to the New Covenant, and ultimately to Jesus Christ who came and freed us from the Law. A permanent irony.


ROSE tattoo

Done by Cody Dresser at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas (September 2015). This is just a beautiful rose that I got as a filler, a red rose tattoo is a very standard traditional tattoo, so it’s something I’ve always found aesthetically pleasing and it was convenient that the size/shape of the piece filled up the last large chunk of space on my sleeve. I’d been dying to get the last of my arm filled so that my sleeve would be complete but I’d been saving up for an engagement ring, thus I denied my tattoo addiction and told myself I couldn’t spend any money on them. But, my wonderful girlfriend (soon-to-be fianceé) knew this and decided to go behind my back and contact Cody, and after explaining my situation he decided he’d cut her a discount because he knew me (and he was engaged at the time, so he sympathized with why I was saving). Thus this final tattoo was a gift, and it holds a special significance because it reminds me of Lindsey, who’s my beautiful rose. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but that’s love, sorryboutchya. And I’ve got a super dope sleeve now, shout out to Cody Dresser. Check him out!

Chronological Snobbery

CSL

     “I have called…”chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”
     – C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (207-208)

 

    “J.I. Packer describing the heretical spirit of our age, which holds that: “The newer is the truer, only what is recent is decent, every shift of ground is a step forward, and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.””

 

     “…But how does [Hillary Clinton] know what “history” will do? And what makes her think that “history” never makes mistakes? … The spirit of the age is in any case notoriously fickle. You might as well, walking in the mist, take a compass bearing on a mountain goat. What is more, the Church’s foundation documents (to say nothing of its Founder himself) were notoriously on the wrong side of history. The Gospel was foolishness to the Greeks, said St Paul, and a scandal to Jews.”

 

     “…The youth-centred spirit of the age, in which freshness is more fashionable than faithfulness, innovating inspires people more than imitating, technology trumps tradition, and novelty is confused with creativity. Many still think that the Dylanesque call to change everything your parents stood for is iconoclastic, without noticing that true iconoclasm is to be found when people challenge the deepest convictions of a culture, and (say) teach that children should obey their parents rather than tell them to move over because they don’t understand the world no more. When you add to that the modernist metanarrative of progress (which is not completely dead yet), and the wider social obsession with the possibilities brought by technology, it is easy to see why the view could creep into the church that changing things was Good and conserving things was Bad.”

 

     “If it’s true, it’s not new; new truth is an oxymoron.”
          – Anonymous

 

     “And, as the inner life of the Believer thus endures, so, thank God, the outward truth also passes not away. There is not a single Truth of God that is revealed in this blessed Book that shall ever become a lie. There is not one promise there that shall ever be revoked. What God has revealed in His Word is not for yesterday nor for today, alone, but for tomor- row, and until the world’s end and throughout eternity! I know that there are those who would like to see a new Bible, or a revised version of it. I mean a revised version of the original Scriptures to suit their depraved taste! They would gladly have what they call “new developments” and “fresh light” worthy of this “advanced” generation! But, beloved Friends, there is nothing new in theology but that which is false—only the old is true—for the Truth of God must be old, as old as God Himself! So let us rejoice that whatever may happen, and although the fashion of this world shall surely pass away, there is not a single text between the covers of this Book that shall ever lose an atom of its Divine Truth and force. Oh, no! The old Book is not effete and the Revelation it has brought to us will never grow stale! The promises well up with as rich consolation to us today as they did to the first of the martyr-band! The solemn oaths and Covenant of God stand as firm and fast today as when He first gave them to our fathers! So let us cling to the Holy Word and to the doctrines of God’s Grace, for these are among the things that are to abide forever!—
     “Engraved as in eternal brass, the mighty promise shines,
          Nor can the powers of darkness erase, those everlasting lines!
          He that can dash whole worlds to death, and make them when He please—
          He speaks and that almighty breath, fulfils His great decrees!
          His very Word of Grace is strong as that which built the skies.
          The voice that rolls the stars along speaks all the promises!”
     – Charles Spurgeon, The Fashion of This World
     – Isaac Watts, Begin, My Tongue, Some Heav’nly Theme

 

     “But what else can this [the problematic “critical study of history”] mean but that it was in the eighteenth century that man began to axiomatically to credit himself with being superior to the past, and assumed a standpoint in relation to it whence he found it possible to set himself up as a judge over past events according to fixed principles, as well as to describe its deeds and to substantiate history’s own report? And the yardstick of these principles, at least as applied by the typical observer of history living at that age, has the inevitable effect of turning that judgment of the past into an extremely radical one. For the yardstick is quite simply the man of the present with his complete trust in his own powers of discernment and judgment, with his feeling for freedom, his desire for intellectual conquest, his urge to form and his supreme moral self-confidence.
     What historical facts, even, can be true except those which to the man of the age seem psychologically and physiologically probable, or at any rate not improbable? How, in face of such firm certainty about what was psychologically and physiologically probable and improbably could eighteenth century man conceive of the existence of historical riddles and secrets?”
     – Karl Barth, Protestant Thought: from Rousseau to Ritschl (36)

 

1. Everything in the Bible is either cultural or timeless.
2. There is a cultural reason for a particular biblical statement, X.
3. Therefore, X is not timeless, and we don’t have to live by it any more.”
     – Andrew Wilson, The Cultural/Timeless Fallacy

 

The form of the chronological snobbery fallacy can be expressed as follows:
     1) It is argued that A.
     2) A is an old argument, dating back to the times when people also believed B.
     3) B is clearly false.
     4) Therefore, A is false.
          – Wikipedia, Chronological snobbery

 

     “And people say I talk about the same ol’ thang; reason that I sound the same cause the truth don’t change.”
          – Lecrae Moore, Gimme a Second

 

     “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me.”
     – Charles Spurgeon, Election

 

     “The appeal to history is thus a nifty little piece of rhetorical violence, a ‘performative utterance’ that seeks to bring about the fate that it announces and to excuse the opposition’s loss of agency as the inevitable triumph of justice.”

 

     “Upon inspection, “X is on the right side of history” turns out to be a lazy, hectoring way to declare, “X is a good idea,” by those evading any responsibility to prove it so.”
     – William Voegeli, The Redskins and the Wrong Side of History

 

     “We invoke the future’s verdict of guilt precisely because we’d like to smuggle back into our politics the moral force of Divine judgment. But our appeals to progress are a pathetic substitute for the concept of Providence. The former stifles critical reflection about the past. The latter is at least flexible enough to account for the sudden flowering of great evil, even in an age as advanced as ours.
     What we do know from history is that the future often rejects the past. Political ideals are often abandoned, rarely refuted.
     And so we are thrown back on ourselves. If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.”
     – Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Most Bullying Argument in Politics

 

     – Relevant Magazine, Suffering from Chronological Snobbery

Filthy Rags or Fully Pleasing?

     “Many Christians believe that all their righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags. After all, that’s what Isaiah 64:6 seems to say: even your best deeds are dirty and worthless. But I don’t think this is what Isaiah means. The “righteous deeds” Isaiah has in mind are most likely the perfunctory rituals offered by Israel without sincere faith and without wholehearted obedience. In Isaiah 65:1–7 the Lord rejects Israel’s sinful sacrifices. They are an insult to the Lord, smoke in his nostrils, just like the ritual “obedience” of Isaiah 58 that did not impress the Lord because his people were oppressing the poor. Their “righteous deeds” were “filthy rags” (64:6, KJV) because they weren’t righteous at all. They looked good but were a sham, a literal smoke screen to cover up their unbelief and disobedience.
     But we should not think that every kind of “righteous deed” is like a filthy rag before God. In fact the previous verse, Isaiah 64:5, says “you [God] meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” It is not impossible for God’s people to commit righteous acts that please God. John Piper explains:
     Sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. It is true–gloriously true–that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean that God does not produce in those “justified” people (before and after the cross) an experiential righteousness that is not “filthy rags.” In fact, he does; and this righteousness is precious to God and is required, not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.
     It is a dangerous thing to ignore the Bible’s assumption, and expectation, that righteousness is possible. Of course, our righteousness can never appease God’s wrath. We need the imputed righteousness of Christ. More than that, we cannot produce any righteousness in our own strength. But as born-again believers, it is possible to please God by his grace. Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are fully pleasing to God (Col. 1:10). Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God (Rom. 12:1). Looking out for your weaker brother pleases God (14:18). Obeying your parents pleases God (Col. 3:20). Teaching the Word in truth pleases God (1 Thess. 2:4). Praying for the governing authorities pleases God (1 Tim. 2:1–3). Supporting your family members in need pleases God (5:4). Sharing with others pleases God (Heb. 13:16). Keeping his commandments pleases God (1 John 3:22). Basically, whenever you trust and obey, God is pleased.
     We can think it’s a mark of spiritual sensitivity to consider everything we do as morally suspect. But this is not the way the Bible thinks about righteousness. More importantly, this kind of spiritual resignation does not tell the truth about God. A. W. Tozer is right:
     From a failure to properly understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today. The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing. He is austere, peevish, highly temperamental and extremely hard to please.
     But this is no way to view the God of the Bible. Our God is not a capricious slave driver. He is not hyper-sensitive and prone to fits of rage on account of slight offenses. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). “He is not hard to please,” Tozer reminds us, “though He may be hard to satisfy.”
     Why do we imagine God to be so unmoved by our heart-felt attempts at obedience? He is, after all, our heavenly Father. What sort of father looks at his daughter’s homemade birthday card and complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on the wrong shelf, “This is worthless in my sight”? What sort of parent rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not onlynot filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him.
     – Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness
     – Kevin DeYoung, Filthy Rags or Fully Pleasing?

     We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)
     It is true that any shortcoming of God’s law offends against his perfect holiness and makes us liable to judgment, since God cannot look with favor on any sin (Habakkuk 1:13; James 2:10–11).
     But what brought a person to ruin in the Old Testament (and it is the same for us today) was not the failure to have the righteousness of sinless perfection. What brought them to ruin was the failure to trust in the merciful promises of God, especially the hope that he would one day provide a redeemer who would be a perfect righteousness for his people (“the Lord is our righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). The saints knew that this is how they were saved, and that this faith was the key to obedience, and that obedience was the evidence of this faith.
     It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Clearly, justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God.
     They often cite Isaiah 64:6, which says our righteousness is as filthy rags, or “a polluted garment.” “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
     But in the context, Isaiah 64:6 does not mean that all righteousness performed by God’s people is unacceptable to God. Isaiah is referring to people whose righteousness is in fact hypocritical. It is no longer righteousness. But in the verse just before this, Isaiah says that God approvingly meets “him who joyfully works righteousness” (verse 5).
     It’s true — gloriously true — that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean God does not produce in those “justified” people an experiential righteousness that is not a “polluted garment.”
     In fact, he does, and this righteousness is precious to God and is, in fact, required — not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.”
     – John Piper, Future Grace
     – John Piper, Dirty Rags No More

     “When it comes to our justification—our legal standing before God—our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.” Indeed, the gospel is good news because we are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done. We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.
     So what does God think of our good works after we are saved? Here, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages. Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is. 64:6).
     But does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion? Is God pleased only with Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?
     Righteous Deeds
     Not at all. Time and time again, the Scriptures show that God is pleased with the righteousness deeds of the saints. God was pleased with Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). God was pleased with Zechariah and Elizabeth: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Christ was pleased with Mary’s gift of perfume (Mark 14:6), a deed he called “beautiful.” Christ was pleased with the widow’s offering: “She put in more than all of them” (Luke 21:3).
     Indeed, one could say that the entire “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 is a catalog of the great deeds of the saints. Think of all that was done by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and others. Are all their deeds “filthy rags” in God’s sight?
     Of course, we should not be surprised that God is pleased with the good works of his people. AsHebrews 11:1-2 tells us, God is pleased with these works precisely because they were done out of faith. They are good works generated from the work of God’s own Spirit in the hearts of the saints (Eph. 2:10). Sure, they are not perfect works—they are always tainted by sin to some degree. And no, we cannot think for a moment that they merit salvation. They do not. But they are the works of God’s own sons and daughters, and he delights in them.
     Biblical Context
     This larger biblical context can provide the proper framework for understanding the intent of passages like Isaiah 64:6. The “filthy rags” in this passage does not refer to the Spirit-wrought works of the regenerate, but the outward religious grandstanding of the wicked (see Isaiah 58). This understanding allows John Piper to say the following:
     It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6, which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. . . . [But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect. Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags.” (Future Grace, 151-152).
     In a similar fashion, the Westminster Confession offers a wonderfully balanced perspective on how God views the good works of his people:
     Yet notwithstanding, the person of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works are also accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections (WCF 16.6).
     Good and Faithful
     God’s delight in the works of his people is not, as some might think, a recipe for pride. Rather, it is a tremendous (and much needed) encouragement to those of us laboring in ministry. Our efforts can seem futile. We often find ourselves spent and exhausted.
     What a refreshment to our souls to know that our Father in heaven actually delights in these labors! It is like salve on our blisters and a balm to our aching muscles to know that he is pleased with the faith-driven works of his children.
     He is like a Father who sees the painting his 5-year old brought home from school. He doesn’t pour scorn on the effort because it is not a Rembrandt. Instead, he takes the painting, with all its flaws, and sticks it on the refrigerator for all to see.
     Indeed, it is this very hope—that God might be pleased with our labors—that Jesus lays out as a motive for us. For our hope is that one day we might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).”
     – Michael J. Kruger, God Does Not View Your Labors As ‘Filthy

Christian Denominations

Denomination Distinctives Compared
These charts are highly revisionistic but, in general, remain accurate.

denominational.comparison

     This is the most extensive and thorough (excluding books) comparison of denominations that I’ve come across online.
     – Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Denominational Chart

Denomination Origins
These charts are highly revisionistic but, in general, remain accurate.

Denominations_Historical_TreeChart
     – First Alliance Church, Denominational Family Tree

familytreeofdenominations
     – Orthodoxy in Bytes, Family Tree of Denominations

denoms
     – Christianity in View, Protestantism Denominations

Formal and Material Principles
screenshot

Further Reference
The links below contain far too much detail to include in a primer such as this, or are relevant but of less significance than the information compiled above. Explore each of them for greater detail on the nature of the dynamics of different denominations.
     – Truth for Saints, Christian Denominations
     – Wikipedia, Christian Denomination

Profanity, Cussing, Cursing, Swearing

     So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
     – 1 Corinthians 10:31

     Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
     – Proverbs 4:24

     The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
     – Proverbs 10:31-32

     Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
     – Ephesians 4:29

     Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
     – Ephesians 5:4

     Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
     – Colossians 4:6

     How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
     – James 3:5-12

     Before reading the following post, refer to this post for broader Scripture on exercising freedom in Christ and how it plays out with weaker brothers or those with different convictions.
     George Carlin, notorious for his ability to cut through soft, weak parts of the English language, once said while speaking on allegedly ‘bad words’: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those words [referring to a slew of racist slurs he just listed] in and of themselves. They’re only words. It’s the context that counts. It’s the user. It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bullshit! It’s the context that makes them good or bad. The context. That makes them good or bad,” (Doin’ It Again (1990) (transcript)).
     We’re allowed to say “dang,” or “sucks,” or “crap,” or even homeschool-sanitized “nuggets!” or “snickerdoodle!” yet the meaning behind each word is identical to the ‘cuss word’ that these words are replacing. Our culture has just arbitrarily attributed value of sin/badness to words like “shit, “ass,” and so on. Does this justify our use of either set? No. But it is a bit silly that such a dichotomy exists, between acceptable/unacceptable bad words or lesser/greater cuss words. Come, let us reason.

     “According to a profile in Christianity Today entitled “The Positive Prophet,” the liberal evangelical Tony Campolo would often begin a speech by saying:
     “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
     Although Campolo is overstating the point, he is right that evangelicals often take great offense to the use of such language and are surprised when it is used by Christians.”

     “My friend and fellow seminarian was witnessing on the street to some of the Goth crowd who were into Wicca. Their own language was vulgar, but they did not perceive it as vulgar. In presenting the gospel to them, in an attempt to communicate to them on a level that they could really understand, my friend pointed out the fact to them that since the Fall, the world has been “totally f**ked up.” Their response was a contemplative and agreeing “yeah.” In my judgment, this falls under the category of being all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:19-22).”
     – Reformed Answers, Is Cussing Necessarily a Sin?

     “When we examine any issue of morality, ethics, or Christian living we should not approach from the perspective of, “What can I get away with?” but of, “How Christ-like can I be?” So let’s approach from that perspective, not seeking license but seeking absolute purity and conformity to God’s perfect standards.
     …..
     Insulting another human being, and blaspheming are wrong, no matter the words; the issue is not these sinful uses of profanity, but flippant/idle words that are subjective to the culture.”
     – Tim Challies, A Theology of Profanity

     “So, what’s my point? Do I want to create a Christian culture of cussing? Absolutely not; it’s actually pretty dumb when Christians flaunt cussing for the sake of sounding hip and edgy.”
     – Joey Svendsen, Jesus Saved My Ass

     “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
     – Mark Twain

     “Profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully; Profanity is the use of strong words by weak people; Profanity is a crutch for the conversationally handicapped. When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak—probably both.”
     – Unknown

     – C. Michael Patton and Wayne Grudem, Can Christians Curse?
     – John Piper, On Cussing
     – John Piper, Can Christians Cuss to Prove a Point?
     – Clint Archer, Bleep! Why Christians Shouldn’t Cuss
     – GotQuestions, Is It a Sin to Cuss/Swear/Curse?