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


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?