Sunday, May 31, 2009

George Tiller is Dead

1. Though I am conflicted, I know that this was not the way God wanted it to go down. 

2. President Obama is outraged. Rightfully so. Now please show some outrage for the babies that were slaughtered in his care.

3.  I hope that Tiller believed Jesus died for his sins, because he needs Jesus' righteousness more than anyone.

Robert George:
Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing. The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands. No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him. We are a nation of laws. Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence. Rightly or wrongly, George Tilller was acquitted by a jury of his peers. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord." For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion. Every human life is precious. George Tiller's life was precious. We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life. Let our "weapons" in the fight to defend the lives of abortion's tiny victims, be chaste weapons of the spirit.
National Right to Life:
National Right to Life extends its sympathies to Dr. Tiller's family over this loss of life.

Further, the National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation. The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.

SRV: Voodoo

You Might Fear Men If...

I wish these were as funny as Foxworthy's. A sampling from Ed Welch's When People Are Big and God Is Small (p. 15-17):
  • Do you ever feel as if you will be exposed as an impostor? Many business executives and apparently successful people do. The sense of being exposed is an expression of the fear of man. It means that the opinions of other people--especially the possible opinion that you are a failure --are able to control you.
  • Do you get easily embarrassed? If so, people and their perceived opinions probably define you. Or, to use biblical language, you exalt the opinions of others to the point where you are ruled by them.
  • Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? What about cover-ups where you are not technically lying with your mouth? Lying and other forms of living in the dark are usually ways to make ourselves look better before other people. They also serve to cover our shame before them.
  • Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say you need people, you are still controlled by them. Isn't a hermit dominated by a fear of man?
  • Aren't most diets, even when they are ostensibly under the heading of "health," dedicated to impressing others? The desire for the "praise of men" is one of the ways we exalt people above God.
  • Do you feel satisfaction only when you know your blog is being viewed often (read=when people think you are great)?
Ok, I added the last one.

Kill Me, But Don't Keep Me From Being Liked

I am finally getting to Ed Welch's book When People Are Big and God Is Small.  I have heard plenty about it and even used a section I found online in a sermon.  When I am helping someone through acceptance issues or, more frequently, when I am struggling with my own desperate desire to be liked, I use the title in the form of a question: "Are you making people big and God small?"  There is perhaps no issue that is more destructive, no issue that will drive people more regularly to sin.  It usually isn't money or sex or power that entices.  Usually, those things are only a means by which they can get what they really want: love.  Sadly, I speak from experience.         
I'll be posting some of the more poignant paragraphs and phrases from Ed's book.  Already many of them have driven me to hide underneath the dining room table.  For example, Ed describes how we fear rejection more than we fear God (p. 39):
It all sounds too familiar.  Sometimes we would prefer to die for Jesus than to live for him.  If someone had the power to kill us for our profession of faith, I imagine that most Christians would say, "Yes, I am a believer in Jesus Christ," even if it meant death.  The threat of torture might make people think twice, but I think most Christians would acknowledge Christ.  However, if making the decision for Jesus means that we might spend years being unpopular, ignored, poor, or criticized, then there are masses of Christians who put their faith on the shelf.  "Death is not immanent, so why hurry into such a rash decision?"  "There will be time later to get things straight with God."

In other words, kill me, but don't keep me from being liked, appreciated, or respected.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Abortion Numbers Under GWB

They did not, as is argued by many, go up. Michael J. New:
Citing increases in the abortion rate under Republican presidents has quickly become a favorite talking point for pro-life supporters of Barack Obama and other Democrats. During his debate with Robert George at the National Press Club last night, Doug Kmiec stated that abortions increased under the first President Bush. Also, on Fox News Sunday after the Notre Dame commencement, Fr. Richard McBrien stated that the abortion rate increased during George W. Bush's presidency.

Unfortunately, both Kmiec and McBrien are wrong. Data from both the Center for Disease Control and the Alan Guttmacher Institute indicate that abortions fell during the first Bush presidency. And the most recent data from both sources indicates that abortions were falling during the administration of George W. Bush.

Indeed, between 2000 and 2005, data from Guttmacher indicates that the number of abortions fell by 8.1 percent and data from the CDC indicates that abortions fell by 2.9 percent.

Between 1998 and 1992, data from Guttmacher indicate that the number of abortions fell by 3.7 percent and data from the CDC indicates that the number of abortions fell by 0.9 percent.
To be fair, 
The incidence of abortion is influenced by economic and demographic trends which presidents cannot do much to influence in the short term. Furthermore, policies enacted at the state level, such as the enactment of pro-life laws, likely have a greater impact on abortion trends.

Still, this nuance is lost on pro-life Obama supporters. It came as no surprise that Doug Kmiec credited the economy for the 1990s abortion decline, but said nary a word about the substantial increase in the number of states enacting pro-life laws during this time.

Brian Regan Goes to the ER

Kids Don't Stand a Chance

Vampire Weekend:

When What Ceases to be a Servant Becomes Tyrant

Philip Yancey, in the introduction to G.K. Chesterton's book, Orthodoxy, p. xvi:
The churches I attended had stressed the dangers of pleasure so loudly that I had missed any positive message.  Guided by Chesterton, I came to see sex, money, power, and sensory pleasures as God's gifts which, in a fallen world, must be handled with care, like explosives.  We have lost the untainted innocence of Eden, and now every good things represents risk as well, holding within it the potential for abuse.  Eating becomes gluttony, love becomes lust, and along the way we lose sight of the One who gave us pleasure.  The ancients turned good things into idols; we moderns call them addictions.  In either case, what ceases to be a servant becomes a tyrant.
Or, as Tim Keller would say it, it is turning good things into ultimate things.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wait on Jesus

I was listening to Tim Keller today in my car. He gave a quick sermon to some preaching students on Mark 5:21-43. This is a typical "sandwich" section of scripture, where one account begins, another is started and finished, and the first one is then concluded. I'll try to relay Keller's main points (which, by the way, nearly killed me).

1. The issue with this story is that Jesus, as he makes his way to heal a dying girl, stops to speak with a woman who had touched his garment (which had healed her). Does he not know that this woman's ailment is not life threatening but that the little girl, if not attended to immediately, will die?

2. Keller, at this point, brings up cultural idiosyncrasies. He says that each culture has an idea about when someone is actually late to an appointment. Western Anglo-Saxoners are offended when you are minutes late. Contrastingly, those in the Latino culture won't get offended until you are 30-45 minutes late. And in some societies, people will give you hours before they consider you late. Accordingly, we can't put our artificial time constraints on Jesus, on God. We have preconceived notions about when God should act. And, so, when he doesn't act immediately, we, out of pride, get angry. You'll feel like Jairus. When you get into a relationship with God, you will constantly wait for an apology. You must realize that his schedule is not your schedule. His time line is not your time line. Jesus says to Jairus, essentially, "I will keep my promises, but hardly ever will they fit within your time line." Now is this satisfying? Is it helpful to us who will experience this over and over? "Just have faith." Partially.

3. We must see the wisdom of Jesus. Jesus is entirely capable of dealing with the woman with bleeding and healing the little girl. Because we have the information that the characters in the account don't have, we don't have to worry about what he'll do. We know his wisdom in this account will prevail. But what about when we are the characters in the account? What about when we can't see the end to the story?

4. Jesus takes the time to comfort and teach the unclean woman with a chronic problem causing a male church leader in urgent need to wait. This is a picture of the gospel. The gospel reverses the values of the world. The cross of Christ says that the way up is down, to be strong you must be weak, to have power you must serve, the last shall be first. Jesus puts the outsider first. This is how God always does salvation.

5. When he finally goes to the little girl who has died, he says to her "Talitha." This was a diminutive for "little girl." Or, this was a pet name. Translated today, it would read "honey." Notice what Jesus doesn't do. He doesn't say "Stand back! I will defeat the power of sin and death!" No, he sits down next her and pulls her up from death. There is no greater enemy in the world and he defeats it handily. That is power. But it is also tenderness. He is saying, "If I have you by my hand, death is nothing but a good night's sleep."

6. Why was he able to do this? Because when he went to the cross, he lost his father's hand for us. When he went to the garden he asked God to spare him and he was turned down. God did not reach down to save him from his misery. The reason Jesus Christ can be this gracious, the reason he can go to the weak and marginalized, the reason he is able to lift her out of death, is because he lost his father's hand. We now have his. He is now the true parent we all need.

7. Now why would you want to hurry someone like this? He is utterly kind, gracious and lost his father's hand. Why would you want to disbelieve someone who loves us like that?

Contrition Will Not Earn You Salvation

Calvin, in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.4.3:
But it makes a great difference whether you teach forgiveness of sins as deserved by just and full contrition, which the sinner can never perform; or whether you enjoin him to hunger and thirst after God's mercy to show him--through the recognition of his misery, his vacillation, his Weariness, and his captivity--where he ought to seek refreshment, rest, and freedom; in fine, to teach him in his humility to give glory to God.

What To Ask Your Spouse

From David Powlison:
1. What are your present burdens? The Bible tells us that we are born for trouble (Job 5:7). So what is the trouble? A sin? A responsibility? An issue at work? A particular conflict? What weighs you down? What was your lowlight of this day? These burdens are the “heat of life.

2. What are your present joys? What were your highlights from the day? These joys are the “dew of blessing.”

3. What is your calling? This could include the mundane tasks, or broader life-purpose questions. What are your duties for this day? What do you need to do? What are your goals for this day? For example, a parent could say, “Today, I don’t want to lose my temper with the kids.” It could be as simple as this.
HT: Tony Reinke

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I am Getting Old

1. My back hurts after working out.
2. I canceled my cable (and like it).
3. I am appreciating liturgy more and more.
4. I just bought my second Fernando Ortega album (Great deal: Beginnings - 2 Cd Set).
5. Nose hair.

The Empathetic Heart Surgeon

Ok, fine. One more Sotomayor quote. From Thomas Sowell:
Much is being made of the fact that Sonia Sotomayor had to struggle to rise in the world. But stop and think.

If you were going to have open-heart surgery, would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who was chosen because he had to struggle to get where he is, or by the best surgeon you could find — even if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had every advantage that money and social position could offer?
Whole thing.

Hopefully it is Harder Said Than Done

fail owned pwned pictures


Rather than posting something new every second on the news and commentary on Obama's nomination of Sotomayor, I will give you everything interesting I have found thus far and leave the issue for (hopefully) a long while.

My initial reaction is that she is the perfect choice of a man who believes his power and ability, and the nature of the law, to be unconstrained. An "empathetic" jurist is, ultimately, an unempathetic one. Because this country is held together in delicate balance by its restrictive system of law, when that law is bent or broken by a single individual, the balance is shifted. While Sotomayor will work well for individuals, she will unduly work against the society.


Charles Krauthammer:
Well, as we heard today, she has a great American story.

And — but there is someone else here, as we just heard, who also has a great American story, and that is Frank Ricci, who is the fireman who sued because he took a promotional test, he and others, and was denied the promotion simply because of his race.

And that's a case that came to the second circuit court, and Judge Sotomayor summarily dismissed it.

Now, that is important because it tells us a lot about her judicial philosophy. And the fact that, as we heard Judge Jose Contrera, on her court, also a Clinton appointee, was upset by her dismissal of this, and not even being willing to recognize the serious constitutional issues, that tells us that she really is a believer in the racial spoils system.

She is a person who said in a speech that she would hope that a wise Latina woman would come to better conclusions as a judge than a white male.

I mean, imagine if you heard someone say the reverse. He would be run out of town as a racist and a sexist.

And it reflects the president's idea of empathy in the judicial choice, meaning a person who cares about the standing of a defendant or a plaintiff in a case, meaning if he is rich or poor, black or white, advantaged or not, which should not be something a judge takes into consideration.

A person ought to take into consideration their personal life and philanthropy, someone in Congress ought to take into considerations in judging if taxes ought to be high or low depending on your station in life, but never a judge. Station in life is not a consideration. It is what the law is.

She is a believer in that, and I think that that's a distortion of the law, and it ought to be a reason to oppose her.
George Will.

She is NOT Hispanic.

WSJ: The Empathy Nominee.

Questions she should be asked.

Focus on the Family.

So, NYT, what is important is not following the law but making sure the little guy wins?
In her rulings, Judge Sotomayor has repeatedly displayed the empathy Mr. Obama has said he is looking for in a justice. She has listened attentively to, and often ruled in favor of, people who have been discriminated against, defendants and other groups that are increasingly getting short shrift in the federal courts. She has shown little patience for the sort of procedural bars that conservative judges have been using to close the courthouse door on people whose rights have been violated.
Exit question: Is it a good thing or bad thing that her judicial opinions will not "last"?

Six Views on Creation/Evolution

From C. Michael Patton:
1. Young Earth Creationism

The belief that the universe and all that is in it was created by God around ten-thousand years ago or less. They insist that this is the only way to understand the Scriptures. Further, they will argue that science is on their side using “catastropheism.” They believe that world-wide biblical catastrophes sufficiently explain the fossil records and the geographic phenomenon that might otherwise suggest the earth is old. They believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and world-wide flood.

2. Gap Theory Creationists

Belief that the explanation for the old age of the universe can be found in a theoretical time gap that exists between the lines of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the earth and the earth became formless and void. Therefore God instituted the new creation which begins in Genesis 1:2b. This theory allows for an indefinite period of time for the earth to exist before the events laid out in the creation narrative. Gap theorists will differ as to what could have happened on the earth to make it become void of life. Some will argue for the possibility of a creation prior to humans that died out. This could include the dinosaurs. They normally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and world-wide flood.

3. Time-Relative Creationism

Belief that the universe is both young and old depending on your perspective. Since time is not a constant (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), the time at the beginning of creation would have moved much slower than it does today. From the way time is measured today, the succession of moments in the creation narrative equals that of six twenty-four hour periods, but relative to the measurements at the time of creation, the events would have transpired much more slowly, allowing for billions of years. This view, therefore, does not assume a constancy in time and believes that any assumption upon the radical events of the first days/eons of creation is both beyond what science can assume and against the most prevailing view of science regarding time today. This view may or may not allow for an evolutionary view of creation. They can allow for in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and world-wide flood.

4. Old Earth Creationists
(also Progressive Creationists and Day-Age Creationists)

Belief that the old age of the universe can be reconciled with Scripture by understanding the days of Genesis 1 not at literal 24 hour periods, but as long indefinite periods of time. The word “day” would then be understood the same as in Gen. 2:4 “. . . in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” While this view believes the universe and earth are billions of years old, they believe that man was created a short time ago. Therefore, they do not believe in evolution. They believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and world-wide flood.

5. Theistic Evolution (with a literal Adam and Eve):
The belief that God created the universe over billions of years, using evolutionary processes to create humanity. At some time, toward the end of the evolutionary process, God, through an act of special creation, created Adam and Eve as the head of the human race. Some also believe that God did not use special creation, but appointed already existing humanoids as the representatives for humanity calling them Adam and Eve. They may or may not believe in a snake talking and usually believe that the flood was local.

6. Theistic Evolutionists (no literal Adam and Eve)
The belief that God created the universe over billions of years, using evolutionary processes to create humanity. Adam and Eve are simply literary and symbolic, representing the fall of humanity and the ensuing curse.
Can you be a Christian and believe any of these?

Continual Repentance

Calvin, in The Institutes, 3.3.26:
So long as we dwell in the prison house of our body we must continually contend with the defects of our corrupt nature, indeed with our own natural soul. Plato sometimes says that the life of a philosopher is a meditation upon death; but we may more truly say that the life of a Christian man is a continual effort and exercise in the mortification of the flesh, till it is utterly slain, and God's Spirit reigns in us. Therefore, I think he has profited greatly who has learned to be very much displeased with himself, not so as to stick fast in this mire and progress no farther, but rather to hasten to God and yearn for him in order that, having been engrafted into the life and death of Christ, he may give attention to continual repentance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bippity Boppity Bacon!

Mortification and Vivication

Calvin, in the Institutes, on what occurs in a man who realizes that he has sinned against God, 3.3.3:
But certain men well versed in penance, even long before these times, meaning to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, said that it consists of two parts: mortification and vivification. "Mortification" they explain as sorrow of soul and dread conceived from the recognition of sin and the awareness of divine judgment. For when anyone has been brought into a true knowledge of sin, he then begins truly to hate and abhor sin; then he is heartily displeased with himself, he confesses himself miserable and lost and wishes to be another man. Furthermore, when he is touched by any sense of the judgment of God (for the one straightway follows the other) he then lies stricken and overthrown; humbled and cast down he trembles; he becomes discouraged and despairs. This is the first part of repentance, commonly called "contrition." "Vivification" they understand as the consolation that arises out of faith. That is, when a man is laid low by the consciousness of sin and stricken by the fear of God, and afterward looks to the goodness of God-to his mercy, grace, salvation, which is through Christ-he raises himself up, he takes heart, he recovers courage, and as it were, returns from death to life. 'Now these words, if only they have a right interpretation, express well enough the force of repentance; but when they understand vivification as the happiness that the mind receives after its perturbation and fear have been quieted, I do not agree. It means, rather, the desire to live in a holy and devoted manner, a desire arising from rebirth; as if it were said that man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God.

Death is Not Dying

I just finished watching Rachel Barkey's talk I linked to earlier. It was too hard to watch all together. Still, you would be wise to listen to her. If she is wrong, then everything is wrong. If she is right, then everything is right.

Her blog has some of her letters and also the audio and video of the talk.

On Sotomayor

LifeNews (a pro-life news source) says that, of all the people Obama could have picked, Sotomayor is the only one that offers some hope for pro-lifers:
The only potential Supreme Court justice who may provide hope for pro-life advocates is Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has been the subject of considerable speculation because Obama is receiving pressure to appoint both a woman and Hispanic and she qualifies on both counts.

"Despite 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has never directly decided whether a law regulating abortion was constitutional," AUL explains.

Sotomayor participated in a decision concerning the Mexico City Policy, which President Obama recently overturned and which prohibits sending taxpayer dollars to groups that promote and perform abortions in other nations.

Writing for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor upheld the Mexico City Policy, but AUL says the significance of the decision "may be minimal because the issue was largely controlled by the Second Circuit’s earlier opinion in a similar challenge to the policy."

AUL notes that Judge Sotomayor also upheld the pro-life policy by rejecting claims from a pro-abortion legal group that it violated the Equal Protection Clause.

"Rejecting this new argument, Justice Sotomayor wrote that because the challenge involved neither a suspect class nor a fundamental right," AUL notes. "She then acknowledged the ability of the government to adopt anti-abortion policies, noting, 'there can be no question that the classification survives rational basis review. The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds.'"
But the picture is not entirely clear:
At the same time, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion overturning, in part, a district court’s grant of summary judgment against a group of pro-life protestors.

Though not concerning abortion policy directly, the case is viewed as a stand against free speech for pro-life advocates.
Whole thing.

So Many LInks (26 May 2009)

You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. You can't have both.

Autism doesn't affect just kids. Those kids usually get older.

I'm Just Sayin'.

If you haven't heard, he has selected Sonia Sotomayor.

He died like Jesus.

"What defines me is my relationship with Jesus," says mommy and wife who will die in 6-18 weeks. (Video and Audio)

He Knows What it is Like to Suffer

Maria Chapman died a year ago today. Her mom's message today is must read stuff. Despite her tremendous grief, she trusts in Jesus:
And then, all of a sudden, I hear this other voice in my head that reminds me over and over again of not what I FEEL, but what I KNOW....It might on certain days be buried deep down in my heart and have a hard time computing to my brain, but here is what I know and what I choose to believe, over and over again....even when it is really just a bad day! I know God loves me and my family, I know God is sovereign and He knows what is best for us, I know He has our days numbered and makes NO mistakes, I know that He will bring beauty from ashes....He has too....that is what I cling to in order to make it through another 24 hours. Isaiah 53:3 kept going through my head the day of the accident..."that He was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering" I said it over and over and over again. He is a Savior who took on the suffering for ALL of us. He knows what it is like to suffer!
Read the whole thing, that you may feel the "holiness" the Chapman family has felt and known for a year.

Just Read Your Bible

Piper, in answering the question about how to defeat an addiction to entertainment, said one thing that is either striking, or defeating:
Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don't feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what's really there.
Now, five years ago I would have scoffed at this. It is one of those "Just do it" phrases that doesn't seem at all helpful. "Ok, I get that I need to do it, but how do I do it?" I was looking for a magic bullet, a get rich quick answer. Not, "You just need to do it." I have since changed my tune. Only one thing has made me a consistent Bible reader: Being consistent. It is as simple as that.

Mark Dever was once asked, "What’s one thing you’ve learned after years of reading the Bible about how to read the Bible well?" His answer, I hope, will be of great help to you:
That’s it’s more important that I keep doing it than what I get out of it at any particular time.

A lot of young Christians will have an exciting quiet time on Monday and a really exciting one on Tuesday and an awesome one on Wednesday but then something happens on Thursday and they actually don’t even do it and Friday they do it and they feel guilty and it isn’t that good and Saturday they do it but it’s late and they were discouraged...and then they just get discouraged because they’re not always having a super experience. That’s where I would look at them and say, "Just keep going. Aim at obedience in a long direction set in a pattern for decades. If you just keep going you’ll gain so much by consistency and faithfulness that there’s no way you can gain just by sudden experience."

One Sentence Movie Reviews

Transsiberian: I am pretty sure Hitchcock came back from the dead to make this really great, tense film.

End of the Spear: Except for a few scenes, the movie was a mostly unmoving look at one of the most moving events in Christian history; and that's because they explained not at all why the missionaries were there in the first place.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Yes, I saw it; no, you shouldn't see it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Addicted to Entertainment?

John thinks you might be.

The six things:
  1. Recognizing it is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Seek the Lord earnestly about it. Pray like crazy that God would open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his law.
  3. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don't feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what's really there.
  4. Get in a group where you talk about serious things.
  5. Begin to share your faith. One of the reasons we are not as moved by our own faith as we are is because we almost never talk about it to any unbeliever. It starts to feel like a kind of hothouse thing, and then it starts to have a feeling of unreality about it. And then the powers of entertainment have more sway in our life.
  6. Think about your death.  What do you want to be doing to prepare to see Jesus?
I was especially struck by point number five.  

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Teach Your Children to Pray Even if They Aren't Believers

Says JP:

Just Do Something

From Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, pp. 50-51:
Passivity is a plague among Christians. It's not just that we don't do anything; it's that we feel spiritual for not doing anything. We imagine that our inactivity is patience and sensitivity to God's leading. At times it may be; but it's also quite possible we are just lazy. When we hype-spiritualize our decisions, we can veer off into impulsive and foolish decisions. But more likely as Christians we fall into endless patterns of vacillation, indecision, and regret. No doubt, selfish ambition is a danger for Christians, but so is complacency, listless wandering, and passivity that pawns itself off as spirituality. Perhaps our inactivity is not so much waiting on God as it is an expression of the fear of man, the love of the praise of man, and disbelief in God's providence.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preach the Gospel, Using Words Is Necessary

Mark Galli writes about a mythological quote attributed to St. Francis:
I've heard the quote once too often. It's time to set the record straight—about the quote, and about the gospel.

Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."

This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.
Beyond that fact that this quote is not actually historical, his main point about why this quote is popular is most important:
"Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. As blogger Justin Taylor recently put it, the Good News can no more be communicated by deeds than can the nightly news.
Whole thing.

The Problem With Being Nice

From Kevin DeYoung's Defining Discourse Down, on why, when taking part in an argument, being nice is just as bad as being mean:
The problem with the nice problem is twofold. First, we are all victims or want to be victims. We argue emotions not ideas. We debate who has been hurt more or who was meaner, rather than who is right and who is wrong. If I can position myself as the one under attack and you as the attacker, then I’m more than halfway to winning in the court of public opinion. We all want to root for the underdogs. We all want nice guys to finish first.

Second, we are all proud. Because I’m proud I get hurt when people disagree with me strongly. Because I’m proud I feel the need to give thirteen qualifications before I make an argument, not usually because I’m a swell guy but because I love for people to love me and loathe for them to dislike or misunderstand me. Because I’m proud I hedge my criticisms so that I won’t have to publicly repent and recant when I go too far and get something wrong. Because we’re proud, protectors of self more than lovers of truth, we often don’t discuss things with candor or with verve.

And yet, look at the model provided by Jesus in the gospels. Half of his sayings beg for qualifications. Come on Jesus, give us a little “I’m not saying . . . I’m just saying” before you tell us to hate our parents (Luke 14:26). Issue a few caveats before you use the tragedy of the tower of Siloam to call people to repent of their sins (Luke 13:4–5). Tell us something about how the Pharisees really mean well before you lambast them with woes (Luke 11). Of course, Jesus was Jesus and we are not. But judging from the example of Paul, Peter, John, the Church Fathers and the Reformers, the point still stands. It is possible to be too nice, especially when eternal truth is at stake.
He ends with a great quote from A.W. Tozer:
The kingdom of God, has suffered a great deal of harm from fighters—men who would rather fight than pray; but the kingdom of God has also been done great harm by men who would rather be nice than right.
Whole thing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So Many Links (21 May 2009)

Driscoll, writing for Fox News, dispels the myth that Christianity in America is dying.

Do Christian artists need to swear to make points?

Prejan, you need a better mommy (or mentor).

Calvinists need to calm down.

But it's still cool to be Calvinist:
Young Christians have been drawn to Calvinism not because they were looking for Calvin or an “ism,” but because they were drawn to a vision of a massive, glorious, fall-down-before-Him-as-though-dead kind of God who loves us because He wants to.

The influence of Calvinism is growing because its God is transcendent and its theology is true. In a day when “be better” moralism passes for preaching, self-help banality passes for counseling, and “Jesus is my boyfriend” music passes for worship in some churches, more and more people are finding comfort in a God who is anything but comfortable. The paradox of Calvinism is that we feel better by feeling worse about ourselves, we do more for God by seeing how He’s done everything for us, and we give love away more freely when we discover that we have been saved by free grace.

I’d like to think that we are Calvinists because of what we see in the Bible. We see a God who is holy, independent, and unlike us. We glory in God’s goodness, that He should save miserable offenders, bent toward evil in all our faculties, objects of His just wrath. We rejoice in God’s electing love, which He purposed for us before the ages began. We are grateful for God’s power by which He caused us, without our cooperation, to be born again and enabled us to believe His promises. We take comfort in God’s all-encompassing providence, whereby nothing happens according to chance, but all things—prosperity or poverty, health or sickness, giving or taking away—are sent to us by our loving heavenly Father.
It's ok to say "I Don't Know":

More on Gossip

From Ray Ortlund, on what gossip is and why people do it:
What is gossip? It is not necessarily false information. Slander is false. Gossip might include true information, and maybe that’s why gossip doesn’t always feel sinful. What makes it sin is, first and foremost, that God says it’s sin. But gossip spreads what can include accurate information to diminish another person. That is not how people behave when they are living in the power of the grace of God.

Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification. Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments. It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop. It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of. It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty. Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
I'm really not sure anyone in the church gets this (especially not me). May we get it.

Are You Wise Enough To Take Criticism Like This?

Charles Spurgeon, in Lectures to My Students, writes about preachers and the way they should get feedback on their preaching. But his advice does not just pertain to preachers (p. 14o-141):
Get a friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely. What a blessing an irritating critic will be to a wise man, what an intolerable nuisance to a fool!
Of course you must be careful not to give too much power to complainers, but just because they are complainers does not mean they do not speak some truth.

Obama at Notre Dame

I didn't pay much attention to Obama's visit to Notre Dame (sewing my ears and eyes shut, it turns out, was the only way to accomplish this). I knew it wasn't going to move the issue up the field. Nevertheless, a few men I respect did write on it. They offer, if you will, a negative opinion and a positive one.

The first, or negative, view came by way of Al Mohler:
In virtually every way imaginable, the Notre Dame speech represents the quintessential Obama. By now, Americans should understand that this President is going to take positions and shape policies that are at odds with the sanctity of human life. He has already done this with respect to federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research and, as a candidate he pledged to do far more -- even to sign the Freedom of Choice Act if passed by Congress.

At the same time, the President wants to claim common ground and respect for those who differ with him on these issues.
His is really a salient, concise response to the regular pro-choice blather. Read it to be educated in high rhetoric.

The other piece, a non-religious response, was issued by National Review's Yuval Levin. He was quite bullish on the speech, seeing some reason for optimism:
For all the controversy surrounding his invitation, President Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday actually offered pro-lifers some causes for optimism. Although it was certainly not his intention, the president’s remarks point to the profound and growing weakness of the case for America’s radical abortion laws.

Obama himself, of course, is a cause for short-term pessimism: His policies have so far been true to his pre-presidential record, and there is every reason to expect they will continue to be. And that he can often clothe his substantive extremism in the garb of rhetorical moderation — that he can step back and describe the controversy with apparent distance even as he himself pulls hard for one side — further strengthens his cause in the fight.

But his speech should leave pro-lifers optimistic, because it illustrates the transformation of the abortion debate over the past 15 years. Put simply, defenders of the Roe regime seem incapable of making a case for themselves, and when they reach for the vocabulary of American liberal democracy in an effort to make some kind of argument, they end up closer to the case for their opponents.
Whole thing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stop Gossipping!

Please! Ray Ortlund:
Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube. It erodes trust and destroys morale. It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere. It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation. It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial. It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against. It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers. It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness. It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves. It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”

What should we do when a conversation starts slipping into gossip? We should immediately challenge the sin: “Hey friend, sorry to interrupt, but this is gossip. So here’s the deal. This conversation is now on hold until you go get _____________, and then you can start over and say whatever you feel you must say right to his face. I am willing to be a witness to that conversation, but I will not participate in gossip. What do you choose to do?” Amy Carmichael established this rule at her mission station: “Never about, always to.”
People, especially in my church, check yourself on this often! No matter how altruistic you think you are being, 99% of the time talking about anyone behind their backs IS GOSSIP. Or, if you don't know what that means, it is sin.

Whole thing.


Worship is the Key To Everything

Doug Wilson writes today:
As the Obama saga gets weirder and weirder, Christians shouldn't forget to interpret all the news in the fundamental terms of who we want to be our god, and who wants to be the embodiment of that god. Worship is always the key to everything. And it is not the "key to everything" because we keep repeating that mindlessly like a mantra. It is the key to everything because it explains why so many people, otherwise intelligent, are doing such foolish things.

One of the central reasons why it is so important to insist on the absolute sovereignty of the triune God of Scripture (and for those just joining us, that would be the true God) is because if we dial that sovereignty back (not in reality, but in our fevered dreams) something bad always happens to us. We (also in our fevered dreams) think to step into the void that our imaginations created, the vacant spot recently relinquished by the Maker of heaven and earth. Denial of the true God is the first step of two. It is not that we want no God; it is that we want to replace Him. So the first step is to deny Him. The second step is a necessary one (meaning that it cannot be avoided once the first is taken), and it involves volunteering to pick up the slack created by the divine absence.
Whole thing.

Who is the William Wilberforce for Today?

My wife and I finally saw the movie Amazing Grace. It's really a great film. The acting is crisp and real, the plot moves quickly and effortlessly, and it does a fine job of relaying what it was actually like in the days of the unfettered slave trade. It's purpose, in that sense, is clear: To make plain that there existed for a time, even in a largely solicitous and civilized nation, something unspeakably heinous. It is quite appalling that only a few dedicated men sought to end the practice. One of those men, William Wilberforce, almost single-handedly stopped the trading of men. His was truly a life in the world, but not of it. And I can take heart in that and remain hopeful about our own slave trades.

As I watched/listened to Piper say below "500,000 little girls," I wept in disbelief. It is actually possible that a nation so civilized could actually allow, and even vote for, infanticide? Yes, of course. Sin has no boundaries in the hearts of men. But whereas ridiculous men like Donald Miller can say ridiculous things like "abortion will always be legal," men like Wilberforce will continue to stand in the strength that God supplies and say, "Someday, it will end." Who will stand to fight in Wilberforce's place? For the first time in a long time more people are calling themselves pro-life than pro-choice. That is a good step. While I am not so naive to believe that all sin will be eradicated, I do believe that God does want to see practices like abortion, that are so incredibly odd and atrocious, end. May it happen even under President Obama's nose; may it even happen at his request.

1,000,000 Little Men and Little Women

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Grace is, Unfortunately, Conditional

In the middle of Gary and Betsy Ricucci's Love That Lasts. So far aso good. It is a book on marriage that is centered around the Gospel, foundationally biblical, to the point, and very practical. Oh, it also has the tendancy to rip out my heart, throw it on the floor and dance around on it. That's a good thing. For example, in the chapter on the role of a husband, Gary describes what it is like to love your wife graciously (p. 35-6):
That is, not according to her performance. It is painful to think of how often my initiative, affection, encouragement and care toward Betsy are conditional upon her performance. If I am pleased, I pursue. If I am dissapointed, I am distant. Jesus didn't wait for the church to rid itself of every spot and wrinkle. His love encoumpases the weakneses, failures, inconsistencies, and even sins of the church. Because his love is gracious, it is constant and active. No one on earth should experience more of my generosity, respect, kindness, sacrfice and gratitude than my wife.
(Baby, where this has been true of me, I am sorry.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life Song

For some reason I just this week discovered Kristian Stanfill's "Jesus Paid It All" (the old hymn made new). The anthem has been echoing in my heart and mind for days, driving me to weep and praise spontaneously. I posted it in video form below, but I would suggest scrolling past the actual video, turning up the volume, and singing along with the lyrics. The truth heralded in this song is the truth, the gospel. And there is nothing more profound, nothing sweeter. It is the very thing into which "angels long to look" and we, the elect, must now deem our life song. If these words do not penetrate your soul immediately, making you both glad and grateful, check yourself. Get more acquainted with your sin, and then get more acquainted with Jesus who died that you "might become the righteousness of God."

And I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all

'Cause Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Lord now indeed I find
Thy pow'r and Thine alone
Can change the leper's spots
And melt the heart of stone

'Cause Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
It's washed away
All my sin and all my shame

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save
My lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
He washed it white as snow
He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One Who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Obligatory "Let's Hope This Isn't True" Post

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Perfect Book

I think I have read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods about five times. It could be, in all seriousness, the perfect book. No, Bryson is not a theologian (far from it), but he is one of the world's best living writers and is, quite possibly, the funniest. Erudition usually detracts. Not so here. Bryson has me gleefully looking up in a dictionary a good five or six words a page, just so I can get more immersed in his world. He writes in such a way that brings about quite a conundrum. His narrative is crafted so well that you want quickly to move to the next page, but at the same time begs you to linger amidst the long, perfectly structured sentences for fear you will miss some beautiful piece of prose. And, again, he is funny. And not kinda funny. The funniest. As I try and read sections out loud to my wife, I constantly have to stop to gather myself. I would be embarrassed if I were not so happy.

A Walk in the Woods is about his expedition on the great Appalachian Trail (running up the East Coast, it covers some 2200 miles). Along with his friend "Katz," he takes one of the most memorable journeys I haven't actually been on. And as I read it again, I do see some theology in it. No, nothing overt. But it is there. The grandness of God in his design of the earth, the subtleties of society and psychology, the ineffable nature of good friendship. The perfect book, I say.

For your enjoyment, here is the retelling of Bryson and Katz and their happening upon a woman named Mary Ellen:
On the fourth evening, we made a friend. We were sitting in a nice little clearing beside the trail, our tents pitched, eating our noodles, savoring the exquisite pleasure of just sitting, when a plumpish, bespectacled young woman in a red jacket and the customary outsized pack came along. She regarded us with the crinkled squint of someone who is either chronically confused or can't see very well. We exchanged hellos and the usual banalities about the weather and where we were. Then she squinted at the gathering gloom and announced she would camp with us.

Her name was Mary Ellen. She was from Florida, and she was, as Katz forever after termed her in a special tone of awe, a piece of work. She talked nonstop, except when she was clearing our her eustachian tubes (which she did frequently) by pinching her nose and blowing out with a series of violent and alarming snorts of a sort that would make a dog leave the sofa and get under a table in the next room. I have long known that it is part of God's plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on earth, and Mary Ellen was proof that even in the Appalachian woods I would not be spared. It became evident from the first moment that she was a rarity.

"So what are you guys eating?" she said, plonking herself down on a spare log and lifting her head to peer into our bowls. "Noo¬dles? Big mistake. Noodles have got like no energy. I mean like zero." She unblocked her ears. "Is that a Sarship tent?”

I looked at my tent. "I don't know."
"Big mistake. They must have seen you coming at the camping store. What did you pay for it?"
"I don't know."
"Too much, that's how much. You should have got a three-season tent."
"It is a three-season tent."
"Pardon me saying so, but it is like seriously dumb to come out here in March without a three-season tent." She unblocked her ears.
"It is a three-season tent."
"You're lucky you haven't froze yet. You should go back and like punch out the guy that sold it to you because he's been like, you know, negligible selling you that."
"Believe me, it is a three-season tent."
She unblocked her ears and shook her head impatiently. "That's a three-season tent." She indicated Katz's tent.
"That's exactly the same tent."
WARNING: A Walk in the Woods is full of brilliantly 'colorful language' and should not be confused with 'Christian' works of fiction.

Faith, Our Shield

Below is a long quote on faith and how, though we experience trials, it protects us. I am posting the whole thing because it is so helpful and encouraging. Calvin, in The Institutes, 3.2.21 (I split it up into a few paragraphs for easier reading):
21. The Word of God as the shield of faith

To bear these attacks faith arms and fortifies itself with the Word of the Lord. And when any sort of temptation assails us--suggesting that God is our enemy because he is unfavorable toward us--faith, on the other hand, replies that while he afflicts us he is also merciful because his chastisement arises out of love rather than wrath. When one is stricken by the thought that God is Avenger of iniquities, faith sets over against this the fact that his pardon is ready for all iniquities whenever the sinner betakes himself to the Lord's mercy. Thus the godly mind, however strange the ways in which it is vexed and troubled, finally surmounts all difficulties, and never allows itself to be deprived of assurance of divine mercy. Rather, all the contentions that try and weary it result in the certainty of this assurance.

A proof of this is that while the saints seem to be very greatly pressed by God's vengeance, yet they lay their complaints before him; and when it seems that they will not at all be heard, they nonetheless call upon him. What point would there be in crying out to him if they hoped for no solace from him? Indeed, it would never enter their minds to call upon him if they did not believe that he had prepared help for them. Thus the disciples whom Christ rebuked for the smallness of their faith complained that they were perishing, and yet were imploring his help [Matt. 8:25-26]. Indeed, while he reproves them for their little faith, he does not cast them out from the ranks of his disciples or count them among unbelievers, but urges them to shake off that fault.

Therefore, we repeat what we have already stated: that the root of faith can never be torn from the godly breast, but clings so fast to the inmost parts that, however faith seems to be shaken or to bend this way or that, its light is never so extinguished or snuffed out that it does not at least lurk as it were beneath the ashes. And this example shows that the Word, which is an incorruptible seed, brings forth fruit like itself, whose fertility never wholly dries up and dies. The ultimate cause of despair for the saints is to feel God's hand in their ruin, taking into account things present. And yet Job declares that his hope will extend so far that even if God should slay him he will not for that reason cease to hope in him [Job 13:15]. The matter stands thus: Unbelief does not hold sway within believers' hearts, but assails them from without. It does not mortally wound them with its weapons, but merely harasses them, or at most so injures them that the wound is curable.

Faith, then, as Paul teaches, serves as our shield [Eph. 6:16]. When held up against weapons it so receives their force that it either completely turns them aside or at least weakens their thrust, so that they cannot penetrate to our vitals. When, therefore, faith is shaken it is like a strong soldier forced by the violent blow of a spear to move his foot and to give ground a little. When faith itself is wounded it is as if the soldier's shield were broken at some point from the thrust of the spear, but not in such a manner as to be pierced. For the godly mind will always rise up so as to say with David, "If I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evils, for thou art with me" [Ps. 22:4, Vg.; 23:4, EV]. Surely it is terrifying to walk in the darkness of death; and believers, whatever their strength may be, cannot but be frightened by it. But since the thought prevails that they have God beside them, caring for their safety, fear at once yields to assurance. However great are the devices, as Augustine says, that the devil throws up against us, while he holds no lodgment in the heart, where faith dwells, he is cast out. 'Thus, if we may judge from the outcome, believers not only emerge safely from every battle, so that, having received fresh strength, they are shortly after ready to descend again into the arena; but besides, what John says in his canonical letter is also fulfilled: "This is the victory that overcomes the world, your faith" [I John 5:4 p.]. And he affirms that our faith will be victor not only in one battle, or a few, or against any particular assault; but that, though it be assailed a thousand times, it will prevail over the entire world.

God: Obscured, but There

Calvin, in The Institutes, on faith as understanding not all things, but the most important things, 3.2.19:
It is like a man who, shut up in a prison into which the sun's rays shine obliquely and half obscured through a rather narrow window, is indeed deprived of the full sight of the sun. Yet his eyes dwell on its steadfast brightness, and he receives its benefits. Thus, bound with the fetters of an earthly body, however much we are shadowed on every side with great darkness, we are nevertheless illumined as much as need be for firm assurance when, to show forth his mercy, the light of God sheds even a little of its radiance.

Cozy Kitty

I wonder if my taxidermist will make my old cat into a Cozy Kitty for me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Romans 8:28 is Not Just Yours

Our church is in the middle of a sermon series on Joseph and I decided to also follow along with Tim Keller's sermons on the same subject. He, of course, says some flat out amazing things. In discussing the sovereignty of God over Joe's suffering, he rightly says that this was all discipline for him and now we can say that our suffering is, in truth, discipline for us (he leaned heavily on Hebrews 12:7ff to explain this). Now the problem, he says, is that people try and figure out exactly what God is up to. In every event they see the hand of God and they must know the reason why it is happening.

He says, for example, that people misconstrue and misunderstand Romans 8:28. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Most people assume that means things like "I got that flat tire because I had to call a tow truck driver. That driver is now my husband." Now, that may possibly be the reason you got a flat tire. But to say that is the only reason, or even one of the reasons, is really impossible to say and, probably, egocentric. Rather than looking outward, the events in this world are there so that we may turn inward. Everything God does in your life is meant to reposition your heart, turning you away from idols and to Him.

It Ain't Cool to Live With Your GF

Well, he doesn't say it exactly like that:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So Many Links (13 Mar 2009)

Great news: Mom has plastic surgery to look like daughter.

The 'That's Not Right' moments in sports.

We are biblically illiterate.


More proof that Paul wasn't lying.

The instantaneous laugh is priceless:

Furniture for Black AND White People

Is there going to be stuff like this in heaven? I hope so.

A Wondrously Angry God

Calvin, in the Institutes, on the purpose of God's anger on earth, 3.2.12:
From the other side we see that God, while not ceasing to love his children, is wondrously angry toward them; not because he is disposed of himself to hate them, but because he would frighten them by the feeling of his wrath in order to humble their fleshly pride, shake off their sluggishness, and arouse them to repentance. Therefore, at the same time they conceive him to be at once angry and merciful toward them, or toward their sins. For they unfeignedly pray that his wrath be averted, while with tranquil confidence they nevertheless flee to him for refuge.

Ephesians 1:3-12 as Prayer

Pray this today:
Blessed be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as you chose us in Jesus before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before you. In love you predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of your will, to the praise of your glorious grace, with which you have blessed us in the Beloved. In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of your grace, which you lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, which you set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to your purpose who works all things according to the counsel of your will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of your glory.

Monday, May 11, 2009

If I Can't Be a Sonics Fan

I'll be a Celtics fan...

Adoptive Saints

I can't help but think that the Catholics get it right. There are saints among us. Exhibit A.


Presuppositional Apologetics

The video below is a debate between Greg Koukl and Deepak Chopra. If you have 37 minutes, this is an amazing interchange, mostly because Koukl is so convincing. And what is fascinating about the debate is that Koukl never tried to argue that Christianity is right. His only point, and one Chopra never did see, was that all belief claims are truth claims. Even the idea, "I am uncertain and you are not" (despite it's dubiousness) is itself a truth claim. The ground for debate is not "no one has the truth" but "what is the truth? Koukl masterfully exposes this.

LOLCats of the Week

Been a long time.

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

Humorous Pictures

Tweeting the Gospel

A "tweet" is, technically, a micro-blog (done over at "Twitter"). The goal is to say something using, at most, 140 characters. Well, a few weeks back, Rob Bell was asked to "Tweet" the gospel in an interview with CT. He failed not only to keep his "tweet" under 140 characters, but also to explain the gospel. 9 Marks' blog Church Matters took up this same task, asking their readers to send in their best "tweets" of the gospel. Here are the winners:
2Co 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Holy God creates men, who disobey. God sends Christ, God/man. He never sins, dies n men's place, rises again. Men repent, believe =saved

God made us 2 show His greatness. We rebelled & desrve His wrath but Jesus died as a sub 4 snnrs &rose again. Repnt &Blieve da good news

Not Gay or Straight, Repentant or Unrepentant

Solid (if slightly polemical) insight by Doug Wilson on the way Christians view and engage the culture wars:
Mark Twain's wife was a long-suffering woman, and one day she walked up to him and calmly repeated back to him every foul word she had ever heard him use, and he had probably used them all. When she was quite done, he looked at her and said, "My dear, you know the words, but you don't know the tune."

The problem that many conservative Christians have when it comes to dealing with public sins and outrages (like the current homo crusades) is that they do the same kind of thing. They know the words but they don't know the tune. And so Christians generally either capitulate, and use the language that our secular masters assign for us to use (sexual orientation, gay, bi, diversity, and so on), or they retreat to the bunker mentality of frat boy insults. But the fact that some of the frat boy insults can be justified from Scripture does not mean that we know the tune.

In our culture wars, Christians too often carry on like the elder brother who refused to the come to the party when the prodigal son returned. We have divided the world with false antitheses -- like gay and straight, for example. But the real antithesis is repentant and unrepentant, and our language and demeanor must reflect that. A repentant homosexual who is spending the rest of his life in prison because he had molested numerous children will be received into glory, and an unrepentant Christian culture warrior whose private grime-fantasies are all exclusively hetero will not be. Mark the antithesis well.
Whole thing.

Mother's Day is a Bad Idea

Or so says Al Mohler:
Sentiment drives Mother's Day as a gargantuan observance. We Americans feel better about ourselves when we honor motherhood -- or when we spend a few dollars on overpriced greeting cards, flowers, and food and convince ourselves that this is honoring our mothers.

There is nothing wrong about sentiment in itself, but there is something pornographic about the pathos of sentimentalism that this observance produces -- a sentimentalism so often devoid of content.

The Christian vision of motherhood is more about courage and faithfulness than about sentimentalism. The mothers of the Bible are a tough lot. Jochebed put her baby in a floating ark of bulrushes, defying the order of Pharaoh that all Hebrew male children be put to death. Rachel, mother to Joseph and Benjamin, died giving birth to Benjamin. Hannah promised her son to God, and presented Samuel as a young boy for service in the House of the Lord. Mary, the mother of Jesus, risked shame and disgrace to bear the Savior, and to provide all Christians with a model of brave and unflinching obedience. She was there when Jesus Christ was crucified. As Simeon had told her just after the birth of Christ, "Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." [Luke 2:34-35]

A corsage hardly seems appropriate.
Whole thing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It is Not Enough for a Man Implicitly to Believe What He Does Not Understand

Calvin, in the Institutes, 3.2.2:
Faith rests not on ignorance, but on knowledge. And this is, indeed, knowledge not only of God but of the divine will. We do not obtain salvation either because we are prepared to embrace as true whatever the church has prescribed, or because we turn over to it the task of inquiring and knowing. But we do so when we know that God is our merciful Father, because of reconciliation effected through Christ [II Cor. 5:18-19], and that Christ has been given to us as righteousness, sanctification, and life. By this knowledge, I say, not by submission of our feeling, do we obtain entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. For when the apostle says, "With the heart a man believes unto righteousness, with the mouth makes confession unto salvation" [Rom. 10:10, cf. Vg.], he indicates that it is not enough for a man implicitly to believe what he does not understand or even investigate. But he requires explicit recognition of the divine goodness upon which our righteousness rests.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Christianity, Concisely

Calvin, in the Institutes, 3.2.1:
First, God lays down for us through the law what we should do; if we then fail in any part of it, that dreadful sentence of eternal death which it pronounces will rest upon us. Secondly, it is not only hard, but above our strength and beyond all our abilities, to fulfill the law to the letter; thus, if we look to ourselves only, and ponder what condition we deserve, no trace of good hope will remain; but cast away by God, we shall lie under eternal death. Thirdly, it has been explained that there is but one means of liberation that can rescue us from such miserable calamity: the appearance of Christ the Redeemer, through whose hand the Heavenly Father, pitying us out of his infinite goodness and mercy, willed to help us; if, indeed, with firm faith we embrace this mercy and rest in it with steadfast hope.

So Many Links (08 May 2009)

Wait.  Rigorous standards in testing and behavior will result in better performance?  Crazy.

Word of the day: Lugubrious.

10 things science fiction got right.

Hopefully it will get this right too.   


Rationalists are Not Really Rationalists

Here's the first thirteen minutes of the soon to be released Colission, covering the debates between Christopher Hitchens and, my new hero, Doug Wilson. Extrememly cool:


The Names of the Holy Spirit

Calvin, in the Institutes, 3.1.3:
First, he is called the "spirit of adoption" because he is the witness to us of the free benevolence of God with which God the Father has embraced us in his beloved only-begotten Son to become a Father to us; and he encourages us to have trust in prayer. In fact, he supplies the very words so that we may fearlessly cry, "Abba, Father!" [Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6].

For the same reason he is called "the guarantee and seal" of our inheritance [II Cor. 1:22; cf. Eph. 1:14] because from heaven he so gives life to us, on pilgrimage in the world and resembling dead men, as to assure us that our salvation is safe in God's unfailing care. He is also called "life" because of righteousness [cf. Rom. 8:10].

By his secret watering the Spirit makes us fruitful to bring forth the buds of righteousness. Accordingly, he is frequently called "water," as in Isaiah: "Come, all ye who thirst, to the waters" [ch. 55:1]. Also, "I shall pour out my Spirit upon him who thirsts, and rivers upon the dry land." [Isa. 44:3.] To these verses Christ's statement, quoted above, corresponds: "If anyone thirst, let him come to me" [John 7:37]. Although sometimes he is so called because of his power to cleanse and purify, as in Ezekiel, where the Lord promises "clean water" in which he will "wash away the filth" of his people [ch. 36:25].

From the fact that he restores and nourishes unto vigor of life those on whom he has poured the stream of his grace, he gets the names "oil" and "anointing" [I John 2:20, 27].

On the other hand, persistently boiling away and burning up our vicious and inordinate desires, he enflames our hearts with the love of God and with zealous devotion. From this effect upon us he is also justly called "fire" [Luke 3:16].

In short, he is described as the "spring" [John 4:14] whence all heavenly riches flow forth to us; or as the "hand of God" [Acts 5 11:21], by which he exercises his might. For by the inspiration of his power he so breathes divine life into us that we are no longer actuated by ourselves, but are ruled by his action and prompting. "Accordingly, whatever good things are in us are the fruits of his grace; and without him our gifts are darkness of mind and perversity of heart [cf. Gal. 5:19-21].

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes

A Prayer for Our Leaders

My small group discussed 1 Peter 2:13-17 last night. He is that passage in the form of a prayer:
Lord, God, may we be subject for your sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by you to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is your will, that by doing good we should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. May we live as people who are free, not using our freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Oh Lord, may we honor everyone. May we love the brotherhood. May we fear you. And may we honor the President. Amen.

How to Repent

Ken Sande, in The Peacemaker, lists the "Seven A's" you need to follow to be truly repentant to someone you have wounded (p. 126-134):
1. Address Everyone Involved
2. Avoid If, But, and Maybe
3. Admit Specifically
4. Acknowledge the Hurt
5. Accept the Consequences
6. Alter Your Behavior
7. Ask for Forgiveness (and Allow Time)

Best Commercial Evah

Of course, I have terrible taste:

Dudes, Give Your Wives 20 Minutes

Found this from a guy named Mike Seaver (not kidding). He said that he was at a marriage conference and heard a speaker say that there are 20 crucial minutes in the life of a marriage each day, and that if you are intentional about those 20 minutes, your marriage will be blessed.
  • The first 5 minutes when he woke up in the morning
  • The last 5 minutes before he said goodbye for work
  • The first 5 minutes when he walked in the door from work
  • The last 5 minutes before he said good night
What if men intentionally greeted their spouse with gratefulness and grace at the beginning of each morning? What if he lavished love on his wife and kids before he left for work in the morning? What if he greeted everyone in the afternoon by seeking to show interest in their day and not just having a self-focus that sought rest more than relationship? Finally, what would a marriage look like if along with the other 15 minutes of wife-focus, a man sought to honor his wife and communicate his affections for her as they were going to bed?
Of course you should give your wife more than just 20 minutes, but I think this is a great point and something that us men can put into practice right now. It might even help motivate us to be gracious the rest of the day too.