Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Word Games

I write a blog where I wax ridiculous about a variety of topics that spew forth from my twisted mind. Recently, I posted a submission that examines the strange expressions we often use in popular language. As I considered material for that blog, I thought of expressions that are more serious in nature.


I attended a funeral service for a former co-worker where in his eulogy the minister exhorted the people that, if they wanted to see_____ again, they needed to “accept Jesus as your personal Savior.” While the majority of the attendees felt this was an “awesome” message, I, the curmudgeon, squirmed in my seat.

This kind of talk reinforces the “me-centered” mania that has invaded much of popular evangelicalism. The popular appeal to become a Christian is now based on certain benefits that I may accrue from such a transaction. If I become a Christian, I can go to heaven when I die. How many people have been asked to raise their hands if they want to do this? One would have to be insane to not want to go to heaven if he believed that such a place exists. The appeal is often made to guarantee that if I become a Christian, I can see my loved ones for a grand reunion in the sky. Now, these are true statements, but why do they become the primary motivation for becoming a Christian? Notice that, in much evangelical preaching today, there is precious little talk about what Jesus did to pay the penalty for sin and to satisfy the righteous wrath of a holy God who is offended by our transgressions. We do not frequently hear that “repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ” is the natural response of sinful man to the gospel.

It’s true that Jesus did this for us. But he did this for us that God would be glorified in His grace and mercy, not primarily to provide us with benefits.

This leads me to my second rant. Where do we get the idea of “accepting Jesus as our personal Savior?” Our personal Savior? I see problems with this on two levels. First, is Jesus my personal Savior like a personal shopper or personal masseuse or personal butler? Am I to think that I am so important that all of this is for me alone? Second, understand that there are some things that we all accept but do not necessarily appreciate. Are we to accept Christ as we would accept a root canal – very unpleasant, but I’ll do it if it is necessary?

I realize that questioning such long held shibboleths might label me as a heretic. That’s OK. I realize that we use non-biblical words to describe Biblical truths (“trinity,” for example). However, let’s be careful and think about the words and phrases we use.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mrs. Lincoln

Mrs. Lincoln, A Life by Catherine Clinton is a study of the life of this enigmatic First Lady. Many contemporary references portray Mary Todd Lincoln as a spoiled egomaniac who dabbled in spiritism and flirted with insanity (in fact, at one point, her oldest and only surviving son, Robert, had her institutionalized). Clinton takes a more understanding approach to Mrs. Lincoln than do some writers. At the same time, she does not ignore the intricacies of this woman’s psyche.


Clinton draws back the curtain on Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and times. Mary Lincoln had ambitious dreams for husband. His election to the presidency was a personal victory for her. However, before he was inaugurated, states began to secede from the Union in protest to his election. This was quite a blow to this woman who had been raised and educated as a true southern lady. Add to this the death of a son and the assassination of her husband and her mental condition becomes more explicable.

Mary Lincoln was a persevering woman who stood by her husband during extraordinarily difficult times. She was also manipulative and ruthless in dealing with those she considered to be political rivals or enemies.

This is an informative glimpse into the complicated life of a complex person.

  


                                            

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Gettysburg Address

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Gettysburg address, given in 1863, just months after the bloody battle that saw 43,000 causalities. Abraham Lincoln’s brief address followed a 2 hour oration by Harvard President Edward Everett. Only 5 drafts of the original speech are extant.


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

Friday, November 12, 2010

Productivity and the Gospel

The online version of Christianity Today features an interview with Matt Perman of Desiring God Ministries. Matt authors a blog that deals with time management and productivity called What's Best Next. In this interview, Matt speaks about how productivity and time management relate to the gospel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Veteran's Day

From this month's Imprimus by Rep. Mike Pence:
Closely related to this, and perhaps the least ambiguous of the president’s complex responsibilities, is his duty as commander-in-chief of the military. In this regard there is a very simple rule, unknown to some presidents regardless of party: If, after careful determination, intense stress of soul, and the deepest prayer, you go to war, then, having gone to war, you go to war to win. You do not cast away American lives, or those of the innocent noncombatant enemy, upon a theory, a gambit, or a notion. And if the politics of your own election or of your party intrude upon your decisions for even an instant—there are no words for this.


More commonplace, but hardly less important, are other expectations of the president in this regard. He must not stint on the equipment and provisioning of the armed forces, and if he errs it must be not on the side of scarcity but of surplus. And he must be the guardian of his troops, taking every step to avoid the loss of even a single life.

The American soldier is as precious as the closest of your kin—because he is your kin, and for his sake the president must, in effect, say to the Congress and to the people: I am the Commander-in-Chief. It is my sacred duty to defend the United States, and to give our soldiers what they need to complete the mission and come home safe, whatever the cost.
If, in fulfilling this duty, the president wavers, he will have betrayed his office, for this is not a policy, it is probity. It is written on the blood-soaked ground of Saratoga, Yorktown, Antietam, Cold Harbor, the Marne, Guadalcanal, the Pointe du Hoc, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a thousand other places in our history, in lessons repeated over and over again.
Read the entire article on The Presidency and the Constitution.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bloody Crimes

Bloody Crimes, the Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Funeral Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse is the latest offering by Lincoln scholar James L Swanson. Earlier this year I read Swanson’s book on the search for Lincoln’s assassin, Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Swanson’s style of writing made these books very difficult to put down. I love it when a book engages me and draws me into its story. I love it even more when that book is a work of non-fiction. Swanson is becoming one of my favorite authors.


It is difficult for us to imagine the emotions that swept the nation after Lincoln’s assassination. Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy had just fallen and the Confederate government had fled, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Union General Grant, a bloody and violent war was coming to an end, and the northern states were overcome with exuberance while the southern states were filled with fear and apprehension. It was in this context that Lincoln was killed and the nation was plunged into a crisis of leadership. Though many of us remember the trauma of the assassination of President Kennedy, it is impossible to understand completely the emotions that Lincoln’s death evoked around the nation.

Lincoln was not the 1st President to die in office, but he was the 1st to be assassinated. Swanson describes how Lincoln’s murder and the grand spectacle of the “funeral pageant” lifted the fallen president to near sainthood.

While this was happening, there were 2 manhunts underway. The first was an earnest search for the assassin of Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. He was killed 12 days after the murder of Lincoln. The 2nd began the day before Richmond fell as Jefferson Davis fled the fallen Confederate capital. The search for him grew in intensity after Booth had been dispatched. Swanson tells us about Davis’ capture, imprisonment, and his subsequent years.

Both of these books would be a valuable addition to your Civil War library (what, you don’t have a Civil War library)?
             

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strong Men

From Steve Lawson in Foundations of Grace:
Strong men always proclaim a strong message. They do not read the polls and check the surveys before they give their opinions. In fact, they do not even have opinions—they have convictions. They bleed convictions. They are strong men anchored in the strong Word of God, and, as such, they bring a message with gravitas and punch. When they stand to speak, they actually have something to say—and they say it, whether anyone listens or not. When they sit to write, they do not skirt the issues—they tackle them. When they address the times in which they live, they do not tickle ears—they box them. They do not have one message for one group and a different message for a different group. Wherever they go and whomever they address, they have only one message—God’s message. This is what makes them strong men. They speak God’s Word, or they do not speak at all

Monday, October 18, 2010

Twelve Personal Theological Affirmations for the Student of Scripture

I do not remember where I got this, but I put it in notes for a hermeneutics class I taught. I ran across it today and thought it worth sharing:
Twelve Personal Theological Affirmations for the Student of Scripture


1. I must do more than quote a Scripture and then depart from it; in depth study and understanding of the text is absolutely necessary.

2. The best way to teach Biblical knowledge is to interpret correctly and apply personally what I have learned.

3. Both kerygma (preaching) and didache (teaching) are essential in gospel proclamation; Scripture (especially the New Testament) does not maintain a clear distinction between the two.

4. Preaching and teaching God’s Word is the primary responsibility of the pastor, but it is the responsibility also of every believer.

5. When Biblical instruction is neglected, the people's morals become unclear and/or readily decline.

6. Throughout history God has used the dual elements of preaching and teaching to reform the church.

7. The content of Scripture must not be sacrificed for eloquence in delivery, though one can and should complement the other.

8. Since Bible study is waning, the laity must be trained how to study the Bible on their own as they imitate expository methods used by their preachers and teachers.

9. Faithful teaching equips and inspires people to work and witness.

10. Faithful teaching demands a high view of Scripture (verbal, plenary in it inspiration).

11. Faithful teaching encourages people to bring their Bibles to church; it encourages them to read passages to be taught beforehand and to study them afterwards as well.

12. Through faithful and comprehensive teaching, important problems will be handled in a systematic fashion; sharp and uncomfortable truths are more readily accepted when addressed from the Bible in the natural course of study.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Staying Christian in College

How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski is a must read for every Christian young person planning to attend college, secular or otherwise. Being the product of a Christian college and knowing many young people who have attended similar institutions, I recommend this as required reading for them as well. It is not always a given that one finds a consistent and articulated Christian worldview on a Christian college campus.

Budziszewski speaks from experience. He is professor of philosophy and government at University of Texas in Austin, and was an atheist as a young person, He knows well the atmosphere and lifestyle challenges that young people face on the college campus.

The book is designed as a resource guide. In the chapters, Dr. Budziszewski attempts to explode some of the myths that students face at the university. Whether the issue is postmodernism, politics, pluralism, or sexual freedom, there is great help to found in these pages. The book can be read from beginning to end or the chapters can be consulted for help with the individual topics.

I think this book should be given to Christian high school seniors. Many of the issues that college students face are present in seed form in high school. It would help to identify pitfalls before it is too late.

I do not think that a Christian college is necessarily right for every young person. Certainly, the message of the gospel needs to be shared on the university campus. But not every Christian young person is equipped to face the challenges of university life. Budziszewski’s work will do much to help address that need.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Looking Around

From Tullian Tchividjian:
In my book Unfashionable, I wrote that the Bible makes clear that Christians must be people of double listening—listening both to the questions of the world and to the answers of the Word. We’re to be good interpreters not only of Scripture but also of culture. God wants us to be like the men of Issachar, “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Faithfulness to Christ means we can’t afford to leave our culture unexamined. We’re to think long and hard, deep and wide about our times and all the issues surrounding the church’s mission—its proper relationship to this world and its proper place in it.

Christians have not always been known as "good interpreters of culture." Usually, we are knee-jerk reactionaries. There is a place for reaction (or perhaps, action), but let us first know the real issues.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ordinary Pastors

In introducing the "Ordinary Pastors Project," from The Gospel Coalition, Matt Redmond gives these encouraging words:
Be encouraged. Be encouraged in the midst of ministerial duties that are mind-numbingly mundane. Be encouraged in a world drunk on the sweet nectar of the spectacular. Be encouraged when you preach the gospel clearly. Be encouraged after years of faithfulness, even if you don’t have numbers that impress conference organizers. Be encouraged in the tedium. Be encouraged when you see the same faces week-in and week-out. Be encouraged as you marry and bury, counsel and speak at the local lodge’s spring pancake breakfast. Be encouraged.
Be encouraged when dreams of thousands have careened against the retaining wall of reality with hundreds. Or dozens, even. Be encouraged when no one has heard of you, your church, or your town. Be encouraged in the midst of decline. Be encouraged when you must stop preparing your sermon to clean the bathrooms. Be encouraged, because you stand before God redeemed and loved because of Christ’s righteousness credited to you. Be encouraged, for this right standing before God is not based on the success of your ministry, loved no less because it is ordinary. Be encouraged, ordinary pastor.
Be encouraged when growth is slow and measured by generations. Be encouraged when guilt, fear, and the specter of failure form an unholy alliance against you. Be encouraged when young men grown fat on the feast of podcasts question your every move. Be encouraged when no one knows your name; it is written in blood in the book of life. Ordinary pastor, be encouraged: Your faithful labor in the darkened forest of obscurity is heroic.
Read about the project here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dignity of Work

I live in a blue-collar region. People here are still waving goodbye to the many steel mills that defined our valley almost 30 years after they closed, while desperately holding on to what few manufacturing jobs are left. That’s why Carl Trueman’s post today struck a chord. He speaks of the dignity of work – all work, and while it is easy to affirm, we haven’t quite have figured out how it looks. He says:
First, how does the church enable those in such jobs to find God-given satisfaction? It is oh-so-easy for those of us who have jobs which we enjoy doing to talk about `the dignity of labour' when the labour we have has, in a sense, its own intrinsic dignity. But what of the labour that does not have such dignity in and of itself? Which is monotonous, unskilled, boring, poorly paid, and which slowly but surely bleeds any last vestige of creativity and spontaneity out from the veins? The obvious answer is, of course, to find such dignity in extrinsic factors, supremely in doing everything to the glory of God. But, let's face it, it is a whole lot easier to do an enjoyable job to the glory of God than to sweep the factory floor day after day to the same.

Read the rest of the post here


Those in pastoral ministry would do well to know how the people in their congregations spend their days to earn their living. As he sits in his comfortable study preparing the next sermon, there will be a natural disconnect between the pastor and the deacon or elder who works for the road department or on the assembly line. How do we teach and demonstrate the dignity of work to the glory of God?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Confused

OK, so I realize that I am no genius. I am not politically savy, but am I missing something in the latest report about President Obama's selection of Elizabeth Warren as a special adviser for consumer protection? She was not named to direct a new agency, because as the AP reports:

Obama did not nominate Warren to be the bureau's director, however. Instead he is creating a role that allows her to avoid a lengthy confirmation fight with Senate Republicans who view her as too critical of Wall Street and big banks. The business and banking community opposed Warren as director, contending she would make the agency too aggressive.
Here's where I am confused (and remember, I am no James Carville, so maybe someone can explain the nuances of the situation to me): isn't the President a democrat, and doesn't his party currently control both houses of Congress? What's to be afraid of? Maybe we need Paul Harvey to tell us "the rest of the story..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Handel

On today's date in 1741 at age 56, Georg Friedrich Handel completed his his famous oratorio, "The Messiah." Though mainly performed at Christmas, it was originally intended to be performed for the Easter season. Handel completed this masterful work in 54 days, from start to finish, subsisting mainly on coffee (my kind of guy).

Here is one of the most popular sections, the "Hallelujah Chorus."




Sunday, September 12, 2010

William F. Buckley

Jeremy Lott writes whimsically about a man who, for many years, was the poster boy of reasoned conservatism. Lott’s brief biography of William F. Buckley is one of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounter Series. I was a little curious that Buckley might be portrayed as an evangelical Christian, an icon of the religious right. This was not the scope of the book. Lott exposed Buckley’s deep commitment to his Roman Catholic faith and showed how that faith shaped his worldview. For Buckley, religion was not something to be compartmentalized and segregated from public life.


In this brief and very readable biography we learn some interesting features about Buckley’s life. All of these were new to me. His first language was not English, but Spanish, which is even more incredible given Buckley’s writing style. One needs a dictionary at the ready when reading him. He was a deep cover agent in Mexico for the CIA, even if only for nine months; he was godfather to Howard Hunt’s children and stepped in when Hunt went to prison for the Watergate break-in (Hunt’s wife died in a plane crash a few month prior to his incarceration).

Many know William Buckley as the editor of the National Review or the host of the long running "Firing Line." Lott gives us a glimpse into the private thought of this man. This book is a worthwhile read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, September 10, 2010

Doctrine in a Nutshell

Although I have never subscribed, and although I have never sent a change of address when I moved, I still receive a certain fundamentalist periodical in the mail every 2 weeks. I think it was initially sent by a pastor friend who was trying to rescue me from the error of my ways. That’s OK. I can keep up to date on what that slice of the world is doing.


The latest edition had a front page article exposing the errors of Calvinism. The editor stated that he was co-authoring a book on the subject, but hasn’t had the time to complete the work. Instead, he used the space to refer to 2 earlier fundamentalist authors who wrote polemical books on the issue. One of those was called Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism.

I have no particular interest in defending Calvinism against its detractors. I would appreciate that any critique of any system, whether it is Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Dominion Theology, etc, includes discussion of source material. The aforementioned article had only one reference to a Reformed author and the remainder was an attempt to dismantle a straw man.

For those who may not be familiar with Reformed Theology, Steve Lawson encapsulates the doctrines of grace in one paragraph. There will be some who will disagree with some of the points mentioned in this paragraph. However, it is unlikely that any of the detractors will be able to identify a set of values that is more God-centered and God-focused as is this paragraph:

Before time began, the Bible teaches, God the Father chose a people for Himself to be worshipers of His glory by becoming the objects of His grace. As anexpression of His infinite love for His Son, the Father gave His elect to Christ as a love gift, a people who would praise Him forever and ever. The Father then commissioned His Son to come into this world in order to redeem these chosen ones through His sacrificial death. The Father, along with the Son, also sent the Spirit into this world to apply the saving work of the Son to this same group of elect sinners. This vast number of redeemed saints—those elected by God, purchased by Christ, and called by the Spirit—will never fall from grace. They all shall be transported safely to heaven and glorified forever. This is the God-honoring triumph of sovereign grace. Foundations of Grace (31-32) by Steven Lawson

Monday, September 6, 2010

Church and Culture

During one of my evening walks last week I listened to a workshop session from the 2007 Gospel Coalition Conference. Stephen Um from Boston MA presented a session dealing with the church and culture. One of his rather off-handed comments sparked my thinking.


After Peter’s message on Pentecost, the multitude responded in Acts 2: 37 with, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s answer was, “Repent…” That answer emphasized that the gospel calls us to break with the past and enter a new kingdom. This was not novel in Peter’s theology. Jesus had explained this in Lk. 14:25-33. There must be a radical reordering of priorities and a major shift in worldview when one becomes a follower of Christ.

Fast forward to 21st century Western (predominantly American) evangelical culture. We debate about the most effective ways to reach the lost with the gospel. We have the Emerging Church, the “seeker-sensitive” model, and, in order to maintain links with the past while facing the future, countless churches have both contemporary and traditional services on Sunday morning. Some have realized that unchurched people will not attend on Sunday morning so they have provided a Saturday evening service (which I wonder if it’s merely an opportunity to allow church members another day of sleeping in on Sunday, but I have no way of knowing).

What seems to have been lost is the realization that no longer do unsaved people ask, “What shall we do…?” Instead, it is the church asking the world, “What shall we do to make you want to be saved?” Am I the only one who thinks that this is backwards? Now, I am not railing upon the contemporary vs. traditional idea. I personally think that we need to call a cease fire in the worship wars. But it seems to me that the more we try to adapt to pagan culture, the less effective we become.

The beauty of the gospel is that it is trans-cultural. In Acts 15, the Jews tried to freeze the gospel into a Jewish context when Gentiles began to be converted. That movement was soundly rebuked. But the attempt to place Christianity into a culture has been an ongoing project. The most recent version in our country is to make Christianity white, suburban, and Republican.

Peter tell us to be ready to have an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pt. 3:15). Is anyone asking?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carl Trueman Exposes the Pope as Catholic


Carl Trueman provides a thoughtful and whimsical review of a new biography on Pope Benedict XVI. Read the review here. This is a great line by Trueman that encapsulates the pluralistic/postmodern/politically correct insanity that is western culture: "PR will be the only orthodoxy; orthodoxy will be the only heresy."

Monday, August 30, 2010

God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck

Is it possible to offend the religious right, political conservatives, political liberals, fundamentailsts, evangelicals, and religious liberals all at the same time? Russell Moore comes as close as anyone in his post called God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck. I am sure this will upset some, but I think he is right on target. Here's an excerpt:
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Christ of Confrontation

John MacArthur is no stranger to controversy. In fact, he nearly single-handedly started the “Lordship Controversy” with his The Gospel According to Jesus some 20 years ago. As a faithful expositor of God’s Word, he will be bold enough to say what needs to be said. Though not as shocking and controversial as his earlier works, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore is no less bold and forthright.
This volume examines the ministry of Jesus particularly as He challenged the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees. It is popular to think of Jesus as the meek and mild Savior who never uttered a discouraging word to anyone. Modern people will say that Jesus was always about helping the poor, lifting up the downtrodden, establishing justice, and proclaiming peace. MacArthur shows that His words were very different. Jesus spoke of the wrath of God and eternal condemnation; He called the Pharisees snakes, blind leaders of the blind, and hypocrites. He continually confronted the religious establishment with the truth of Scripture.
One of the best titled chapters is called “Hard Preaching.” To some, it may come as a surprise that the better part of the chapter examines the Sermon on the Mount. Casual readers of this sermon do not always see that it was indeed “hard preaching” directed at the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. The “Bread of Life” discourse concludes the chapter showing that, after His hard preaching, “many turned back.”
This book is synthesized from MacArthur’s preaching ministry at Grace Community Church. The chapters seem cobbled together. Perhaps if it had been written as a book in the first place, the transitions between chapters would have been smoother. Nonetheless, for clear Bible exposition and content, John MacArthur has few rivals.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lean on Me


Bill Withers - Lean On Me
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"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Cor. 1:3-7)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gods and Generals

I just finished watching Gods and Generals, the 1st of a trilogy on the Civil War (or the War between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending upon where you live). This movie centered largely on Stonewall Jackson and seemed to fairly portray his faith. It made me want to read the biography of Jackson by James Robertson (this is now on my “to buy and read” list).


The Civil War battle tactics still seem strange. Nearly 90 years after the War of Independence, soldiers still faced their adversary in the same manner, namely, form a firing line and shoot. With the all of the military advances, why didn’t someone get the idea that standing shoulder to shoulder yards from the enemy is a good way to get killed? Of course, Americans were fighting Americans, but it is no wonder that so many Americans were killed. I know that the kinds of weapons were not so accurate, but really, how does presenting yourself as a good target make sense? Maybe I need educated on this, but was it ungentlemanly to hide behind a rock or tree?

The movie is heavy in dialogue; maybe that’s why it is unappealing to some. Also, Ted Turner had a cameo appearance. I guess that makes sense since he bankrolled the film. I want to re-watch Gettysburg and compare Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee. I wonder who plays Lee in the 3rd movie?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Amen

Thabiti Anyabwile in a message from The Gospel Coalition 2009, heard on one of my daily walks. This is a paraphrase, but the essence is accurate:


We speak of the social gospel, the prosperity gospel, full gospel, etc. If you have to put an adjective before it, it isn’t the real gospel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meditation

In my morning walks, I have been listening to the messages and workshops from the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference. During one of those, Erwin Lutzer made a brief comparison between transcendental meditation (TM) and Biblical meditation. TM involves thinking about nothing; Bible meditation involves thinking about something. As I thought (meditated) about this distinction, these differences came to mind:

TM wants you to empty your mind. Bible meditation is about filling the mind.

TM provides a nonsensical word so that by concentrating on this word, the mind can be cleared. Bible meditation provides the Word of God so that by concentrating on it, the mind can be filled.

TM is a method of relaxation. Bible meditation is a method of sanctification.

TM emphasizes freeing the mind of thoughts, it is thinking about nothing. Bible meditation fills the mind with the highest and most complex thoughts that a human can have. Meditation focuses on the eternal, inscrutable God.

Bible meditation is expanding – the discipline expands our minds and our capacity to know and love God and His Word.

Bible meditation is exhausting – to really consider things that are so high to us is tiring. It is work, but it is sweet, exhilarating work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leadership

This is not original (is anything?). Someone else pointed out this clip as an example of Robert E. Lee's leadership style, but I cannot remember where I saw it. In this brief clip from the movie Gettysburg, there are principles that emerge regarding how leaders deal with failings and errors in subordinates. By the way, the entire movie is packed with leadership vignettes. It is worth watching again looking for these.

Martin Sheen does a masterful job playing Lee. This clip shows Lee at the end of the 1st day of battle. It is after midnight and obviously the men are exhausted and battle weary. Lee calls Stuart into his office because Stuart and his cavalry have failed their mission, no doubt at the cost of many lives. The error was egregious. But note how Lee handles this situation:

  • This is obviously a difficult situation for General Lee. He does not relish the confrontation, but he addresses the problem squarely, without hesitation.
  • Lee rebukes Stuart for his error. He allows for no excuses. Stuart is responsible, no one else. As a leader, Jeb Stuart must take responsibility for his failures.
  • Lee doesn't just rebuke. He tells how and why the error was so costly. He delineates the consequences of the mistake.
  • At the same time, Lee recognizes the worth and value of Stuart. He will not allow him to resign or to dwell on the dressing down. In fact, Lee uses the opportunity to teach leadership lessons to his general. He says, "You must take what I have told you and learn from it, as a man does." He will not allow Stuart to resign, but after the rebuke, begins to build him up.
  • Once the matter is addressed, it is over. "We will speak no more of this." says Lee. The clip closes with a look of wonder and admiration on Stuart's face.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Communication

In his blog post yesterday, blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies writes about the idol of communication. It is a fact; we are adept at making idols of anything. Here is his opening paragraph:


In this digital world, communications dominates. In 2010 141 million blogs were active, 1,052,803 books published, 4.5 billion text messages sent, 175 billion letters mailed, 247 billion emails delivered. Do you see the scope of it? Communication is all the rage. It is what we do for business, education, entertainment, devotion. While people have always communicated and have probably always wanted to communicate more, what is unique in our time is its sheer dominance. What has changed is not the fact that we can communicate and that we like to communicate, but the scope of the it, the speed of it and the reach of it. It is now the dominant paradigm through which we live our lives. Perhaps amidst all of the communication we are prone to forget that we do not need to communicate all the time or that it is not wise to do so all the time. It may be that communication is not always good, that it brings problems even with all of its benefits

This made me think:

  • Why is it that there is so much communication, yet most will say that the number one issue in marriages, business, and organizations is a lack of communication?
  • Why is it that with so much communication, there’s not a lot being said of substance?
  • How will this impact future generations when they want to write our history? If most communication is electronic, how will future historians study our culture if there are no letters or journals?
  • With 141 million active blogs, who in the world do I think I am?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reformation and Revival

Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God’s people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth.

Steven Lawson, Foundations of Grace.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More Random Thoughts

When we read of the atrocities committed in Europe by the Nazi regime, “shocking” is hardly a sufficient word. I am amazed at how a sophisticated culture could move so easily into barbarism – that is, until I remember the doctrine if human depravity.


What does Nazism teach us? It should be obvious, but read this section from Evan’s The Third Reich at War. It is a personal account from a member of the dreaded Einsatzgruppe (caution: sensitive readers may want to skip this. It is graphic):

The Jews had to lie face down on the earth by the ravine walls. There were three groups of marksmen down at the bottom of the ravine, each made up of about twelve men. Groups of Jews were sent own to each of these execution squads simultaneously. Each successive group of Jews had to lie down on top of the bodies of those that had already been shot. The marksmen stood behind the Jews and killed them with a shot in the neck. I still recall the complete terror of the Jews when they first caught sight of the bodies as they reached the top edge of the ravine. Many Jews cried out in terror. It’s almost impossible to image what nerves of steel it took to carry out that dirty work down there. It was horrible… I had to spend the whole morning down at the ravine. For some of the time I had to shoot continuously (p.227).

This occurred not in some foggy medieval past, but in 1941. When I read these accounts, I substitute the word “Christian” for “Jew.” You could easily substitute any group for the Jews. If something so barbaric could occur in modern day western civilization a mere 69 years ago, there is no reason to think that that it could not happen again. Who will be the next group of people subjected to this kind of treatment, and who will be the persecutors?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Random Ideas on Reading

One of several books I am reading this summer is The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans. This is a lengthy book, with 764 pages of text and 873 pages including notes and bibliography. As massive as it is, it is only the final volume of a trilogy on the Third Reich by Evans (The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power).


So, why spend valuable time reading something like this? I have been asked about my morbid fascination with all things Nazi in particular and WWII in general. I have read at least 20 books on Hitler, his henchmen, Nazism, WWII, and the holocaust. So these, in order to explain my fascination, I list these reasons:

• Perhaps there is a genetic link (that is if you can plow through the DNA that came to me via Kentucky and West Virginia) with my German ancestors.

• I was part of a pilot program in my elementary school that began foreign language class in grade 4. Of course, we had German. I studied German through my junior year of High School.

• My mother’s older brother was killed at Normandy on June 10, 1944. I knew that he died in the war, but I was an adult before I learned that he died during the invasion to liberate France from Nazi occupation. Visiting his gravesite at Normandy was an exciting and moving event.

But, perhaps the greatest reason for my fascination lies in the well worn dictum: “those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it.” Erwin Lutzer’s little book Hitler’s Cross stimulated my thinking along the lines of Nazism and its relation to Christianity. Thus, my reading has been to see how a modern, technologically advanced, well educated, and theologically active society (even though Germany was the seed bed of liberalism, there was theological debate) could fall for the likes of Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Göring and the like.



More on this tomorrow.





 



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today in History

On today’s date, 2 significant and unrelated events occurred, several centuries removed from each other.


First, after several years of political wrangling, the Church of Scotland adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1648. For them, it meant an abandonment of the Episcopal form of church government in favor of a Presbyterian form. It is significant that the Confession is still in use today by Christians across denominational lines and is still considered the gold standard as a statement of Reformed faith.

Second, in 1944, Adolf Hitler was wounded in an assassination attempt. This was not the first time conspirators attempted to eliminate the dictator, but it was nearly successful. War hero Claus von Stauffenberg , one of the conspirators and the one who actually planted the bomb, was dispatched to his eternal reward within 24 hours of the failed attempt. Eric Metaxis gives an account of this and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s role in his biography Bonhoeffer.





Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Honest Abe

This is my new favorite commercial.



So You Want to be a Rock Star?

Ed Stetzer is Tim Challies guest blogger today. He writes an article called "The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star." Stetzer understand this as a modern phenomena that attends a portion of the evangelical church culture. But it is not new.

I come from a fundamentalist background and see many similarities between Stetzer's descriptions of modern "rock star" pastors and many of the "great" fundamentalist leaders of the past. Though they would launch into a tirade about the term "rock star," they share a celebrity envy with their contemporary nemeses. A few examples will suffice:

The motto of one of the fundamentalist movement's leaders was "Everything rises and falls on leadership." True enough. But the problem is when leadership becomes enshrined.

It was said some years ago among certain fundamentalist compounds that "If (insert the name of a particular pastor) goes down, the cause of fundamentalism will go with him." I say, let it fall if it is attached to a personality.

I get a publication sent to me (how I do not know) that has a "Church Directory" section, feature several pages of church advertisements that list the church credentials ("fundamental, independent, premillennial, KJV, etc) and features a mug shot of the rock star who pastors the church. Stetzer speaks of churches trying to extricate "their identity from that of the pastor’s abilities and personality" when things go horribly wrong. I think they have gone horribly wrong when that situation is allowed to develop in the 1st place.

Stetzer's comments will be seen by some as just one more error with the "contemporary, compromising crowd" (I say that tongue-in-cheek because they would never be where they would read the comments). I submit that it has been an issue long before we had the term "rock star."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Worshipping Worship

The resurgence in worship is a good thing. The legacy of the Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody and Biily Graham crusade idea has been transferred into church services. This was probably not without cause. The gospel became muddied and lost in the emphasis on liturgy in some churches. Reclaiming an emphasis on bringing truth to bear to the conscience is not bad.

Now it appears as though the penduluum is swinging in the other direction. Now there is an emphasis on worship where it was not the case before. But, since we are creatures of extremes, we must be cautious in this as well. Some want to see "worship" happen so desparelty in the church, that they come close to worshipping worship.

Matthew Smith provides some helpful insight as a guest blogger for Tim Challies. He says:
Like many high school kids before and since who’ve learned to string together three guitar chords, I was soon recruited to lead the worship singing for my youth group’s weekly meetings. (Or forced myself upon the position— my memory fails me at this point.) After leading the music, I would sit down and hear a message, whose point was often that I needed to try harder. Try harder to be a “good witness” at school. Try harder to avoid temptation. Try harder to obey God
Somehow, the idea of trying harder carried over to worship. My repertoire consisted of praise and worship songs (none of which had an F chord— I didn’t know how to play that one), mainly ones that talked about how much I wanted to worship God. I thought that if I tried harder, was sincere enough, and really meant it enough, that I would enter into a state of capital-w Worship. The world around me would fade away, I would lose my inhibitions, and I would achieve a spiritual state of being lost in worship.
But this state of spiritual ecstasy never arrived. And, in my mind, there was only one person to blame–me. I was a failed worshiper
Read the entire article here

Spurgeon on God's Sovereignty

Justin Taylor posts these comments from C.H. Spurgeon on the sovereignty of God. Find them here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Transforming Grace

Jerry Bridges gives a needed word in Transforming Grace. What he says is not new; in fact it is completely Scriptural. But the context of modern Christianity makes it seem as though this was a new discovery.


Many Christians would decry the legalistic approach that marks some in the conservative branches of the church. Legalism is a cancer that eats away the soul of a Body. Unfortunately, legalists do not know that they are legalists. One man’s legalism is another man’s convictions, they like to say.

Bridges has a word for those who would claim to have moved beyond a narrow legalism into more mainstream evangelical faith. And though they may have checked their legalism at the door, they still carry within themselves a “performance mentality.” God expects proper performance and will reward it with blessing. Real transforming grace is a foreign and dangerous concept to many.

Transforming grace finds its center in the merits of Christ that have been imputed to the one who believes. Quite simply this means that God cannot love me any more than He does already, and He loves me as much as He loves His Son. Bridges reports that some of his colleagues have warned him against proclaiming such a message, fearing it will lead to loose and careless living. This is indication that they do not know what it means to live via the merit of Christ.

All of Bridges’ books are worth reading. This is a welcomed addition to his corpus of practical insight on living the Christian life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stevie Wonder - Superstition live on Sesame Street



So what was Stevie Wonder saying with the song “Superstition?” Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge Stevie Wonder fan. We are approximately the same age (he is 7 months and 2 days older), and I even remember when he was known as “Little Stevie Wonder.”


“Superstition” is one of those “feel good” songs that include multiple rhythms, great brass, funky guitar, and a killer bass line. What gets lost in the exceptional music is a subtle message:


When you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.

I do not for a minute equate the faith of the Bible with superstition. In fact, one of the best definitions of faith that I have ever heard comes from Dr. James Price: “faith is sufficient reason to believe.” This echoes Heb. 11:1: faith is substance and evidence.

Yet we must admit that there are some unseen elements to our faith. In Hebrews 11, Noah is warned of “events as yet unseen” (Heb. 11: 7), and by faith Abraham, when he was called by God “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).

We certainly do suffer if we believe in an irrational superstition that believes that things like walking under ladders and breaking mirrors can somehow influence future actions. But the faith of Jesus Christ is not superstition. I hope Stevie can make the distinction.

(By the way, the video is a live performance from Sesame Street. Remember the days when Bert, Ernie, and Oscar were fun instead of politically correct?)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trivializing Words


As evangelicals, we believe in verbal inspiration. This means that we hold that the very words of Scripture are inspired. Words are conveyors of thought. We know the mind of God – even if only partly – because we have the words of God in Scripture. Therefore, words are significant. Christians in particular deal in words. Paul said that faith comes by hearing, by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17). None of this is news to believers.


Why, then, do we insist upon trivializing words in order to appear "real and relevant?" One of my beefs is the overuse of the word "awesome." Everything is awesome; "we had an awesome service in church;" "he did an awesome job painting his house;" "I had an awesome bacon double cheeseburger for lunch." Really? Was the worship service on the same level as the bacon double cheeseburger (maybe, in some cases, the cheeseburger was better)? Maybe you were filled with awe and wonder when you first your new born child, but was it the same kind of wonder that you knew when you had that "awesome" banana split?


Of course, I am guilty of being a curmudgeon. Maybe some will think I am a word Nazi. But, if everything is awesome, then nothing is awesome. God is awesome; His Word is awesome; His creation is awesome; the gospel is totally awesome. Let's at least save a few words to use exclusively for the appropriate subjects.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Today in History

These events occurred on this date in history. The events are actual; the comments are mine:


841 - Charles the Bald and Louis the German defeat Lothar at Fontenay (I guess that better than being known as Charles the Rotund or Charles the Guy with a Funny Looking Scar on His Left Cheek)

1857 - Gustave Flaubert goes on trial for public immorality regarding his novel, Madame Bovary (And yet, not even a reprimand for Desperate Housewives?)

1876 - General George A. Custer and over 260 men of the Seventh Cavalry are wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at Little Big Horn in Montana (Teaching us that hindsight is 20/20).

1903 - Marie Curie announces her discovery of radium (“In a glowing announcement today….”)

1941 - Finland declares war on the Soviet Union (Did they awaken Stalin to tell him this?)

1950 - North Korea invades South Korea, beginning the Korean War (so that’s why they called it the Korean War)

1973 - White House Counsel John Dean admits President Nixon took part in the Watergate cover-up (tattle-tale)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

In The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards Steve Lawson has contributed a welcome addition to the growing body of literature concerning America's foremost pastor/theolologian. This is the second book in Reformation Trust’s A Long Line of Godly Men Series, all authored by Lawson. What distinguishes this title from similar works on Edwards is: (1) It was presented in its original form as a series of Adult Bible Study lessons highlighting the lives of significant characters in Christian history; (2) The focus of this book narrows to a survey of Edward’s resolutions.


Jonathan Edwards completed his “resolutions” just before his 20th birthday. They show remarkable maturity, seriousness, and passion for godliness in one so young. And while Edwards would go on to write other works that would gain more scholarly notoriety, his “resolutions” stand as one of his most memorable compositions. If anyone would see a disconnect between deep scholarly insight and deep devotion, Edwards dispels the idea. Of Edwards, Lawson observes:
“Perhaps none so intellectually endowed has been as firmly determined in the pursuit of holiness as Edwards.”

Lawson discusses the “resolutions” thematically and gives evidence from Edward’s subsequent writings showing that these resolutions formed the foundation upon which Edwards would construct his Christian walk. Dr. Lawson leans heavily upon Edward’s own journal and cites freely from other works on Edwards, such as George Mardsen’s great biography, Jonathan Edwards, A Life, John Piper and Justin Taylor’s compilation A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, and Ian Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography.

Lawson endeavors to show the value of these “resolutions” to our own Christian culture. He notes; “We live in a day of spiritual laxity. Many who confess Christ are pampering themselves to death rather than pushing themselves to holiness. Their spiritual muscles are untrained and unfit. Their wills are soft and unresolved.”

This book is very readable and will serve to introduce Jonathan Edwards to a generation who may be largely unfamiliar with America’s premier theologian.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vacation Journal

Last week was vacation week. If you're interested, here's my journal:

Day 1 – What’s wrong with these people? This is the 1st day of my vacation. Why aren’t they catering to my every whim? How dare they carry on their routine as though I was at work! The most exciting part of this day is taking the Buick for an oil change.



Day 2 – Off to the amusement park. This was the wife’s idea, taking the grandchildren so that we could “make a memory.” What about the memories I will have of the whole ordeal? Do you want to know where the Vatican got the idea of Purgatory? Amusement Parks! I had to pay $30.00 a head to get in. At least with Purgatory, that amount of cash may have gotten me out.


Day 3 – Oh boy, I got to cut the grass today. And, I repaired a clogged drain in the bathroom sink. OK, I didn’t actually repair it. In reality, I have the handyman skills of Paris Hilton. I held the flashlight for the friend who did the actual work.


Day 4 - So whose idea was it to get a trampoline for the grandkids? Apparently not the one who had to go to the store and buy the dang thing and load it into the car. Do you realize that they can put a 14 foot diameter trampoline inside a box that hangs out of the back of your car? Did you know that it weighs approximately the same as a baby rhinoceros? I was so grateful for the guys at WalMart who loaded it for me. I thought they were going to follow me home and unload it from the Buick. They must have gotten lost. I can’t believe that we assembled the whole thing in just under 2 hours. It may have gone much more smoothly had I not tried to assemble the safety netting and attach it to the trampoline before the trampoline was assembled. My wife took over the direction part right after. For 1 day, we were the most popular house in the neighborhood.


Day 5 - This was swimming day. The kids invited 13 friends each to go to the pool with us. Get this; my wife couldn’t go because she had a “migraine.” The old “headache” ploy is once again put into play. So, me and the population of a small village crammed into the Buick and made the trek to the pool. Due to the skillful application of sunscreen, I managed to avoid sunburn everywhere except for my back, thigh, face, and abdominal areas.


Day 6 – The kids had sleepovers, so my wife and I had a day together, alone. We had the entire house to ourselves! You know the rest of the story…we went to WalMart. I got to pick out my Father’s Day gift - a new gas grill. I objected, saying that I didn’t need such an expensive gift. The wife protested; “But the kids are set on getting you a new grill for Father’s Day. They even promised to contribute toward it” (although I never learned the precise amount of the alleged contributions). So, I picked out the grill they wanted me to buy, and paid for it with my own money. Fortunately, it came with free assembly. They will call me when it is ready. I have no idea how I will get it home in the Buick.

A Great Tragedy

On today’s date in 1750, Jonathan Edwards was dismissed as pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He received only a 10 % vote to retain him in what Steven Lawson calls “truly one of the great tragedies of church history” (The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards). Lawson cites Edwards own letter to John Erskine, written in 1749 when Edwards began to see the writing on the wall: 
A very great difficulty has arisen between me and my people, relating to qualifications for communion at the Lord’s table. My honored grandfather Stoddard, my predecessor in the ministry over this church, strenuously maintained the Lord’s Supper to be a converting ordinance, and urged all to come who were not of scandalous life, though they knew themselves to be unconverted. I formerly conformed to this practice, but I have had difficulties with respect to it, which have been long increasing; till I dared no longer in the former way: which has occasioned great uneasiness among my people, and has filled all the country with noise; which has obliged me to write something on the subject, which is now in the press. I know not but this affair will issue in a separation between me and my people. I desire your prayers that God would guide me in every step in this affair.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rescuing Ambition

How often have we thought that ambition is ungodly and unChristlike? We all know those in Christian ministry (I use the term loosely in this context) who have labored long and hard to build their own empires which stand as monuments to their significance. People like that are ambitious, but for the wrong reason.


David Harvey attempts to rescue godly ambition from this kind of mentality. In Rescuing Ambition, Harvey encourages us to be ambitious for the glory of God. This means that we will be gospel-centered in our motives.
Don’t think that this book presents a go for broke, reckless entrepreneurial plan for achieving success in ministry, or in any other career path. Key to understanding godly ambition is to know and practice humility and submission. It means that there may be times when our ambition will be surrendered for the greater glory of God. This, of course, runs cross-current to much contemporary thinking. On the other hand, if our aim is the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel, then this will fuel ambitious effort and enterprise. It comes down to a matter of motivation.


For those who tend to overcompensate by reacting against the empire-builders, this book will be a welcomed encouragement.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amusement Park Musing

This is vacation week, and as a dutiful grandfather, I was hustled into taking my grandchildren (aged 10 & 12) to an amusement park. Of course, we all know the etymology of “amuse.” “Muse” means to think or to become absorbed in thought. The alpha privative negates the word and renders it “to be distracted” or “not to think.” The idea of amusement and amusement parks in general, is to provide distraction from the normal routine of life. People do not go to amusement parks to “muse;” to think. However, I could not help but to muse on certain things as I spent the day at the great American pastime of amusementry (I know this is not a word, but if a president can make up words, why can’t I?)


Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
• Don’t people own mirrors?

• Who came up with the idea of “funnel cakes?” Who would have thought that people would pay $4.49 for deep fried pancake batter? Does the American Heart Association know about this?

• I could be rich if I had figured out how to franchise tattoo and piercing parlors.

• I mean, really, don’t they have access to a mirror?

• Why do people get tattoos on parts of the body that nobody sees – then they show it anyway?

• Why is it that in order to drive to supermarket, my car must be equipped with airbags and antilock brakes; I and my passengers must be securely fastened in DOT approved seat belts; small children must be in approved car seats or booster seats and placed only in the back seat of the automobile – but to ride a coaster that reaches 65 miles an hour and pulls about 2 G’s, you only need to be48 inches tall?

• Do you really need to be texting someone as you plummet down the hill of the “Vomit Comet?” Whatever happened to holding up your hands? OMG!

• Why is it that kids can ride rides that are so intense that they would make Jack Bauer crack, but get car sick on the way home?

• Where do people get those tee shirts?

• Do those kids leave home like that or do they sneak out? Surely, Mom or Dad would never let them out of the house wearing those loosely arranged fragments of material!

• I think it should be a law that people need to own mirrors.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trivializing Our Heritage

Überblogger Tim Challies provides prophetic insight in this post Read the entire article here.
Every so often I’ve contemplated what a Saturday Night Live type of variety program might look like if the topic was “Christendom.” There’s definitely enough material. One of the recurring skits would involve some Christians from the 1400’s about to be burned at the stake. They would be visited by contemporary Christians who would thank them for their sacrifice and tell them how such a great sacrifice gained later Christians ________. You could fill in the blank with all sorts of things. “Your sacrifice has helped give us a world in which our children can learn theology from talking vegetables. Your suffering will all seem worth it when a handsome Texan with a great smile can renovate a sports stadium and broadcast feel-good, gospel-free theology to all the world. Thank you for your noble sacrifice, brother.” Tyndale might have been willing to face the stake for the sake of the Bible, but would he have faced it for a Bible-zine for girls that looks and reads like Cosmo?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

John Adams on Reading

For lovers of books and reading, Tim Challies posts these observations from David McCullough's John Adams.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spiritual Discipline

In his introduction to The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, Steve Lawson pens these convicting words (pps xii-xiii):

To win the prize, all believers must “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us . . . [and] run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1, NASB). Simply put, “No pain, no gain.”

Paul reinforces this challenge with these words: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, NASB). By this exhortation, Paul called for the kind of strict training that a champion athlete undergoes in order to gain the crown. In the Christian life, rigorous discipline, motivated and enabled by grace, is required of all on the path to victory. Spiritual sluggards, beware!

In light of these biblical teachings, it is astounding how many professing believers are slack regarding the self-discipline needed for growth in godliness. We live in a day of spiritual laxity. Many who confess Christ are pampering themselves to death rather than pushing themselves to holiness. Their spiritual muscles are untrained and unfit. Their wills are soft and unresolved.

D.A. Carson sounds a similar note here:
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The End of an Era

On today's date in 1891, Charles H. Spurgeon preached the last sermon of his 38-year-long ministry at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle. He died the following January.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

D-Day

Today marks the 66th anniversary of D-Day when Operation Overlord landed 400,000 Allied American, British, and Canadian troops on the beaches of Normandy in German-occupied France. After visiting the cemetery at Normandy, I became quite interested in this event. If you are a WWII buff, you will want to read the late Stephen Ambrose's D-Day, written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the invasion.

The blurb from the book jacket reads:

Published to mark the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, Stephen E. Ambrose's D-Day: June 6, 1944 relies on over 1,400 interviews with veterans, as well as prodigious research in military archives on both sides of the Atlantic. He provides a comprehensive history of the invasion which also eloquently testifies as to how common soldiers performed extraordinary feats. A major theme of the book, upon which Ambrose would later expand in Citizen Soldiers, is how the soldiers from the democratic Allied nations rose to the occasion and outperformed German troops thought to be invincible. The many small stories that Ambrose collected from paratroopers, sailors, infantrymen, and civilians make the excitement, confusion, and sheer terror of D-day come alive on the page. --Robert McNamara

In addition, watch this YouTube clip of D-Day here

Here is the marker where my mother's brother (the uncle I never knew) is buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy. He was KIA on June 10, 1944. I do not know what part, if any, he may have played in the initial invasion.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Another Title by Jerry Bridges


Jerry Bridges provides us with a helpful study on the fruit of the Spirit in The Fruitful Life. He is careful to make the distinction between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts are more function focused, while fruit is character focused. Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the gifts in contemporary literature rather than the fruit. As one said, “Many of those who contend for the gifts of the Spirit lack the spirit of the gifts.”


Bridges’ contribution is valuable because of these emphases:

First, he leads us to consider the fruit of the Spirit in the context of a life devoted to God. The emphasis on the fear of God, the love of God, and the desire for God is not what one expects from a work on this topic.

Second, Bridges is careful to lay a foundation of Christ centeredness as essential for the pursuit of God. We need to be Christ centered and gospel focused in our walk.

Third, the fruit of the Spirit is demonstrated to be qualities of Christlikeness. What is manifested in this fruit are character traits that model the life of Jesus.

Fourth, the fruit of the Spirit is not portrayed as passive qualities that just happen. It is true that only the Holy Spirit can produce fruit in a believer, it is also true that we have the responsibility to provide the best possible soil for the fruit to grow.

The exercises at the end of each chapter make this book a useful resource for small group Bible studies.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Guiltless Pleasure

Americans who favor universal health care often look to Canada as a model. Here is "medical information" that shows me that they might be on to something. Read "A Cup of Coffee a Day Keeps the Doctor Away." I wonder, if a cup of coffee has benefits, wouldn't an entire pot be better?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Endurance

"Trials can come in many forms: nagging health problems, financial reverses, criticism and rejection, outright persecution. Whatever form the trial takes and however severe it may be, it is intended to strengthen our character. Weight lifters and other athletes have a saying: “No pain, no gain.” The message is plain. Weight lifters know they have to endure the agony of lifting more than their muscles can comfortably handle if they want to increase their strength. So it is with our faith. Our faith and perseverance grow only under the pain of trial." Jerry Bridges in The Fruitful Life

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review: Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life

(Thomas Nelson Bloggers Book Review)
I like meaningful quotations. Call them “sentence sermons,” “pithy sayings,” or aphorisms, but they tend to compress an important truth into a memorable proverb. If you like quotations, then Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life will be a welcome addition to your collection. Edited by Bryan Curtis, this collection is narrow in its focus: it concerns mainly bits of wisdom from people who are successful in various career fields. Entries may be found ranging from Thomas Watson, John Kenneth Galbraith, and President Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Katie Couric.


This volume is very readable. It has 165 pages, yet some of these pages contain only one quotation. Its compact size makes it easy to carry in a briefcase or handbag for reading on the go.

Although the entire book is focused on the professional life, it would have been helpful to have the quotations catalogued in some more narrowly focused topical order. I also found the range of the quotations to be curious. Indeed, people like Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, and Bill Gates are people to hear in the context of success in the professional life. Others like Reba McEntire, Alice Cooper, and Arnold Schwarzenegger do not compare in the same league. It appears that Curtis has confused popularity with success.

This book would make a good gift book for a graduate or for someone who has recently been promoted. There are some very good statements in the book. There is also a lot of filler.