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
Uploaded by chilavert. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

"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


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


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


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


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.