Monday, November 30, 2009

Tim Keller/Redeemer in New York Magazine

"New York magazine ran this piece reporting on what is actually a fringe phenomenon in the city. In reality, this phenomenon is no more central to life in present-day NYC than is the pagan revivalist movement to Athens. It’s something freakish to note, but not to be taken too seriously."

That's how one commenter opined on a new profile of Redeemer Church and Tim Keller.

Christmas Album Honorable Mentions

We've done the top five of all time. Here are some honorable mentions (in no particular order):

1. Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas: Broad, joyous, Sufjany.

2. Michael McDonald: This Christmas: Most of this won't be your cup o' tea, but several of the tracks are flat out amazing, especially "Wexford Carol" and " Peace." The way McDonald sings, you'd think he was a Christian (actually, I think he is).

3. Sojourn: Advent Songs: Christ-centered, musically varied, big. "Glory Be" and "What Child Is This" are must-downloads.

4. Salvation Is Created: A Christmas Record From Bifrost Arts: Already wrote about this here. Really excellent stuff.

5. Fernando Ortega: Christmas Songs: Pretty standard for Ortega, but standard Ortega makes for great Christmas music.

I would love to keep going, and there are some more out there that are bearable, but let's not press our luck.

Soon to come Best Christmas Singles.

Marriage is Like Christ and the Church

Three reasons from JP:
  1. It lifts marriage out of sordid sitcom images and gives it the magnificent meaning God meant it to have.
  2. It gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone.
  3. It shows that the husband's headship and the wife's submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both defined by Christ's self-denying work on the cross so that pride and slavishness are cancelled.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Sentence Movie Reviews

Up: As down to earth as Pixar has been (the first 15 minutes are particularly touching); just wonderful.

The Taking of Pelham 123: What's a good word for contrived-edginess?

Valkyrie: The facts seem right, but there was little feeling to support them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra: Like a big, athletic, dumb dog, and I love big, athletic, dumb dogs.

Merry Christmas!

Ah, Christmas. The magic begins yet again.

Some reflections:
  1. That is the kickenest slap bass I have heard in a long time.
  2. The girl on the right is dead. No, she didn't recently die. She was dead when they filmed this. Weekend at Bernie's style baby!
  3. If those two were the only heralds of Jesus birth left on earth, God would give up on earth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muppet Rhapsody

This is bound to go viral, so I might as well get it out there now. Hilarious.

10 Things to Remember When Your Child is Disobedient

From GraceLaced:
1. You disobey the Lord…and He is the perfect Father.

2. His kindness leads us to repentance.

3. God disciplines those He loves.

4. Your child’s disobedience does not measure your value any more than his obedience showcases your achievement.

5. Your child’s disobedience teaches you dependence on God.

6. And sometimes it’s more than dependence He’s after, it’s complete desperation for Him.

7. Your child is clearly a sinner, and needs to hear the truth of the Gospel, and see it lived out through you.

8. Times of correction serve to remind, or establish within your child, his own sense of need for a Savior.

9. It’s not good behavior you really desire…you want his heart.

10. Your child is a person, not a project.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This is my 1001st post. Might as well use it for good.

Quotes of the Day

“When we started watching his shows, we had intended to apply his advice toward our dogs,” said Amy Twomey, a blogger on parenthood for The Dallas Morning News who is raising three children under 10 with her husband, Matt. “But we realized a lot of ideas can be used on our kids.”


"Y'all well know that I really don't like Sarah Palin. In fact, more than one of you has yelled at me about this. And I find the whole schtick about how the media is just a bunch of elitist hooligans who are out to get her really grating.

"That's why I really wish the media wouldn't act like, well, a bunch of elitist hooligans who are out to get her. I've coined a new phrase to cover the situation: Palinoia. It's when you think people are out to get you, and then they do their best to justify your erroneous belief."


"Predominantly, Christians will need to consider the implications of having the most powerful woman in the world be a career woman who holds such a job despite having young children. While Christians will be pleased to be able to support a woman who is strongly pro-life, pro-family and pro-constitution, they will also wrestle with the fact that she will want to lead the country even as the mother of several young children. And Christians may wonder what she really believes and how strongly she believes it. She is anxious to win over evangelicals but in the end she offers little of spiritual substance beyond what we might expect from any American politician. After all, no President has yet denied being a Christian."


"The New Gospel...usually starts with an apology: 'I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity. It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’ Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous. I know we screwed up with the Crusades, slavery, and the Witch Trials. All I can say is: I apologize. We’ve not [given] you a reason to believe.'”


A Puritan prayer for Thanksgiving (from The Valley of Vision):
O My God,

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Many Links (23 NOV 2009)

Paste's best soundtracks and best live acts of the decade.

Unbelievable story of a man, thought to be comatose for 23 years, who was actually cognizant the entire time.

A different kind of Christmas list.

Gospel-centered marriage resources.

No video today. I have been distraught most of the morning over these pictures of some of the world's impoverished children. Please (1) Pray for them and (2) Consider adoption. Now.

Hope To Prisoners

Piper recently went to Angola prison in Angola, Louisiana. His whole reflection on the experience is worth your time, but his words to the entire prison (via closed circuit TV) are especially affecting:
For 90% of you the next stop is not home and family, but heaven or hell. O what glorious news we have in that situation. And believe me it is not the prosperity of Gospel. Jesus came and died and rose again not mainly to be useful, but to be precious. And that he can be in Angola as well as Atlanta. Perhaps even more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top Five Christmas Albums Ever

You are legally allowed to start playing Christmas music in eight days, so you should probably be prepared. The five Christmas albums no human can live without:

5. Peter, Paul and Mary: A Holiday Celebration: This classic is haunting, warm and, despite PP&M's ignorance, Christ-exalting.

4. Andrew Peterson: Behold the Lamb of God: The first true Christmas album, it is, in reality, a history of salvation. From Abraham to Jesus, Peterson brilliantly makes the grandest meta-narrative a musical sight to behold.

3. Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas: The first Steamroller album (I think), and the only good one.

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas: Jesus seriously considered postponing his incarnation to coincide with Guaraldi's 1965 masterpiece.

1. Holiday Songs And Lullabies: Hands down, the best Christmas album ever. There's just no way they could have produced this thing with any more creativity or beauty. All Christmas albums should aspire to be what this one is.

Quotes of the Day

"A lot of Christians, especially people who have had dramatic conversion experiences, go sailing out of the harbor with wind in their sails. They are so confident in Christ and what he has done for their salvation, and that gospel wind is in their sails. Yet after two years, they have heard just one imperative after another. They have lots of course plotting, lots of books on how to do this and that. They've read every manual on spiritual disciplines. They have heard their pastor tell them they need to pray more, to read the Bible more, to evangelize more. Now they are dead in the water. There's no wind in the sails."


"Not only will we be right back where we started, it will expose the federal trial as nothing more than a show trial. Show trials are conducted by despots and dictators to give only a thin veneer of legality to political detentions and executions. If the state isn’t prepared to abide by the decision of the court, including dismissals and acquittals, then the use of the trial system is worse than useless. It demeans the federal system needed for Americans to seek unbiased justice."


"He’s a little on the short side, neither fat nor thin, and he wears jeans and a sports jacket, not a shiny suit and an oily smile. With his goatee and what’s left of his graying hair trimmed close to his head, he looks mostly like what he is—a well-groomed, middle- to upper-middle-class American professional. But when he runs out onstage and starts dispensing financial advice, you realize that he could have been a great preacher."


This just has to be a joke. It has to.

HT: First Things

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is Jesus Your King?

Tim Keller, in his small group study on Mark, says that there are five things you must do to make Jesus King of your life:
A. Obeying. (Not like Jonah. He thought that if he did what God had said that it would ruin things.) The evaluation question: “Am I willing to obey whatever God says about this life-area?” Symptom: guilt and “covering up”.

B. Accepting. (Not like Job. He thought God was unfair, and that he knew how to run history better.) The evaluation question: “Am I willing to thank God for whatever happens in this area?” Symptom: worry, self-pity, or bitterness.

C. Relying. (Not like Abraham. He made Isaac an idol, something he had to have along with God to be happy.) The evaluation question: “Is there something instead of God I am relying on for self-worth?” Symptom: insecurity (people-approval as an idol), “drivenness” (success or achievement as an idol), self-indulgence (comfort as an idol).

D. Expecting. (Not like Moses. When called to do a great deed, he was sure he was not competent.) The evaluation question: “Are there problems or limitations in my life I think are too big for God to remove?” Symptom: boredom and discouragement.

A fifth, overall evaluation question:

If you ever say, “I’ll obey Christ if…” then you are still on the throne of your
life, determining when and whether you will take a course of action. Are there
any if’s in your life?

Uh Oh: New Sara Groves

And, darn it, I am two days late. If you're like me, you know better than to pass up a Saint Sara CD.

Buy it: Fireflies And Songs. CT review here (five stars, of course).

The Poor Creatures Are Hardening Their Hearts

I have avoided reading John Owen for a long time. For two reasons: (1) He has been dead for 300 years, and (2) His English is so bad that getting anything from his writing requires monumental effort. For two reasons, however, I finally started reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation: (1) J.I. Packer calls Owen the best English-speaking theologian ever, and (2) Lately I have been struggling with perfectionism. That is, though I love Jesus and trust that he has paid the penalty for my sins, I am not always sure that I have done enough. Paul calls us to "obey the gospel." Am I actually obeying the gospel? Am I holy enough? Owen, in his first section of the book, soundly defeats this idea that we can be perfect. And yet, at the same time, calls vehemently for personal holiness like no other author I have read. Though Jesus has freed us from our bondage of sin, there still remains in us "indwelling sin," as Owen says. Our task then as believers is to "mortify," or "kill," that sin. He writes,
The choicest believers who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
It is a stunning appeal and one that is lacking not only in our culture but in our churches as well.

For what it's worth, Owen is not nearly as hard to read as I was led to believe (part of this owing to a great, new edited version). And, more important, he is incredibly helpful and uplifting. All of his exegetical and theological assertions are meant always to help Christians.

My favorite quote so far (perhaps all year) came on page 57. In a section on the necessity of the constant mortification of sin, he speaks to those Christians who have not taken it upon themselves to actually try and defeat the indwelling sin in their lives. For all intense and purposes, these are "elder brothers."
It hardens them, by begetting in them a persuasion that they are in as good condition as the best [professing Christians]. Whatever they see in them is so stained for want of this mortification that it is of no value with them. They have zeal for religion; but it is accompanies with [lack] of forbearance and universal righteousness. They deny [reckless extravagance, especially with money], but with worldliness they separate from the world, but live wholly to themselves, taking no care to exercise lovingkindness in the earth; or they talk spiritually, and live vainly; mention communion with God, and are everywhere conformed to the world; boasting of forgiveness of sin, and never forgiving others. And with such considerations do poor creatures harden their hearts in the unregeneracy.
Clearly Owen, a committed Calvinist, deems these people not actually Christians. And yet, I can't read that paragraph and not ashamedly relate to the "professors," as he calls them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marriage is a Mirror

Oh man, this is so good:

Sin Always Seeks Its Ultimate Outcome

John Owen, in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, p. 53:
Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its [ultimate outcome].

Monday, November 16, 2009

Obama's Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

Most Stressful Jobs That Pay Squat: Music Ministry Director?

I'm just sayin':
5. Music Ministry Director

Median pay: $40,800
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

You may not think of people who plan, direct and conduct performances for religious services as being under a particularly high amount of stress. But they also choose the appropriate psalm or hymn for every wedding and funeral -- only some of the most important events in a family's life. And those stressful situations can create some demanding clients.

"Every now and then you'll get a strange request," said Dan Fenn, Music Ministry Director at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minn. "A couple of years ago I got a request to play the Beer Barrel Polka at a funeral. You have to ask yourself, is this appropriate for a worship service?"

On, Do You Presently Trust Christ for Your Salvation?

In a particularly ominous statement on eternal security, Wayne Grudem asks what your response should be when God asks you why you should be let into heaven (in Systematic Theology, p. 803):
If I were to die tonight and stand before God's judgement seat, and if he were to ask me why he should let me into heaven, would I begin to think of my good deeds and depend on them, or would I without hesitation say that I am depending on the merits of Christ and am confident that he is a sufficient savior?
The difference between those two answer is razor thin and, at the same time, world's apart.

So Many Links (16 NOV 2009)

Fake John Piper (e.g. "Check out this week's 'Taste & See' article: Wrote it while I was on the commode b/c it's a sin to waste time.")

Real John Piper LIVE!

"Now the thing is this—if this were not vampire fiction, but rather, say, premill rapture fiction, there would be all kinds of artsy fartsy Christians apologizing for it from here to Toledo. But because it is the kind of thing that might upset James Dobson, we give the writing a pass."

Shirt I would pay a lot more than 20 bucks for (based on the infamous original).

For your Christmas shopping, recommended books from The Resurgence, from Redeemer, from Desiring God.

Went to a marriage conference on Saturday with Gary Thomas. He's world class and, more importantly, his understanding of marriage is spot on and will...wait, should...revolutionize any marriage. Read Sacred Marriage.

Best stuff ever thrown on the ice during a hockey game:

Sure, You Have Free Will

Piper, via Twitter:
The fallen human will is free the way a sky diver is free until he discovers he has no parachute.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A-Punk on Letterman

We're less than two months away from Vampire Weekend's new album release. Suffice it to say we'll be playing a lot of them around here at ThAmp until it arrives.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Christmas Music: Sting and Bifrost

There's life's struggle to bring the message of salvation to the world. And then there's life's struggle to find decent Christmas music. I'm not sure which one is harder. Two new albums, however, might just be worth your mula.

Sting: If On a Winter's Night...

Sting is hopelessly, insufferably self-important. And at some level, his latest album exudes that (especially the CD's liner notes and pictures...sigh). But even self-importance can't completely mask Sting's God given talent, or those musicians he brings along for the ride. If On a Winter's Night follows just about every "How to make a good Christmas album" rule.

1. Use some standards, but only the good ones (no "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" please).
2. Don't screw up the originals. Make them your own, but don't reinvent the wheel.
3. Make it warm and inviting. That is, make it feel like it's Christmas in the dead of winter and you are happily sipping hot cider by a fire.
4. Simplicity reigns. Sound nothing like the Transsiberian Orchestra.
5. Don't avoid songs that point to reason we celebrate Christmas (Christ).

Most of the arrangements on If On a Winter's Night are well thought out, simple and support the vocals well (even if Sting sounds a bit strained here and there). Favs include "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Hounds of Winter" (which is a redo from a previous album) and "Cherry Tree Carol."

Salvation Is Created: A Christmas Record From Bifrost Arts

My conversion to "Indy" music has been a long one. I have accepted "Indy" so many times I don't know which one stuck. I think what finalized my conversation was the realization that, not unlike grunge music in the early 90's, Indy music is transforming music culture for the better. Thankfully, the crap music that we had to bear in the late 90's and early 2000's is slowly being replaced by high culture (notice that much of the live music on the late night shows is Indy).

Such is the case with a new music label called Great Comfort Records. But unlike the "mainstream" Indy scene, Great Comfort is ostensibly Christian. Created by Daniel Smith and family (of the inherently bizarre Danielson), their goal is to "[look] for and [find] those melodies, those poetic lyrics, those honest expressions, captured in song: the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs… sacred music for the invisible church." They are not timid in their goals, hoping to "completely change the course of the old gospel ship." (See the CT article on their label here.) Though it is doubtful they will actually be able to turn the ship around, I'll be happy listening to them as we all sink.

They have produced two albums so far. Come O Spirit! Anthology of Hymns & Spiritual Songsand Salvation Is Created: A Christmas Record From Bifrost Arts. The first I have yet to get into, but the second, the Christmas album, is good. And I of course mean that in all the ways previously mentioned with respect to the rules of Christmas albums. It is standard, but new. Warm, inviting, and simple. And, boldly, they point to Jesus. Now this album might not be for everyone. Indy music, it seems, is bound together only by its behemian weirdness, and that is definitely the case with Salvation is Created. But whereas some Indy is just unlistenable, this latest release from Great Comfort is very accessible. Favs include "O Come O Come Emmanuel," "Let All Mortal Flesh," and "Out of Heaven."

Returning Soldiers Surprise Their Kids

I think heaven is going to be a lot like this.

HT: CB via Z

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Forced Abortions in China

Kathleen Parker on the consequences of China's one child policy:
Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of the Frontiers group, told the commission that China's one-child policy "causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on Earth."

I met Littlejohn for breakfast the day before the hearing. A petite wife and mother -- as well as a Yale-educated lawyer -- Littlejohn gave up her intellectual property practice in San Francisco after a life-altering illness to become a full-time activist for Chinese women. She is remarkably buoyant, considering the knowledge she has absorbed. Action, she says, is her way of coping with the unconscionable.

Here's the question Littlejohn insists we consider: What really happens to a woman who doesn't have a "birth permit" and has an "out of plan" pregnancy?

The answer is simple and brutal: A woman pregnant without permission has to surrender her unborn child to government enforcers, no matter what the stage of fetal development.


The violence of these procedures doesn't only kill the child in some instances. In two of the cases described in a document leaked this past August, the mothers died, too. Those who dissent, meanwhile, are persecuted.

Such has been the fate of activist Chen Guangcheng, who is serving a four-year sentence after exposing 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations in Linyi County, Shandong province, in 2005. Named by Time magazine as one of 2006's top 100 people "who shape our world," Guangcheng, who is blind, was severely beaten and denied medical care the following year, according to an Amnesty International report.

The one-child policy has created other problems that threaten women and girls. The traditional preference for boys has meant sex-selected abortions resulting in a gender imbalance. Today, men in China outnumber women by 37 million, a disparity that has become a driving force behind sex slavery in Asia. Exacerbating the imbalance, about 500 women a day commit suicide in China -- the highest rate in the world, which Littlejohn attributes in part to coercive family planning.
I don't see how this is going to help anything:
[Littlejohn] is also calling on Planned Parenthood and NARAL to speak up for reproductive choice in China.

Be Acquainted With Repentance

J.C. Ryle:
He that desires to be a true Christian must be experimentally acquainted with repentance and remission of sins. These are the principle things in saving religion. To belong to a pure church, and to hear the gospel, and receive the sacraments are the great privileges: but are we converted? Are we justified? If not, we are dead before God.

Happy is the Christian who keeps these two points continually before his eyes! The brightest saint is the man who has the most heart-searching sense of his own sinfulness, and the liveliest sense of his own complete acceptance in Christ.

There is No Sunday "Worship Switch"

R. Kent Hughes, in Worship by the Book (p. 141):
Because worship is a way of life, you cannot worship corporately on the Lord's day if you haven't been worshiping throughout the week--apart from repentance! Christians don't have a Sunday "worship switch," despite what is sometimes portrayed on television. Neither must we be allowed to think that "worship" is only part of the service--as if singing and praise were worship in contrast to the preaching. And "worship leader"? What an odd term! Does the worship end when his or her part is done?

Heaven Isn't Appealing to Me Because I Won't Be Married

Piper responds to that common (and understandable) statement:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All of Life Worship v. Corporate Worship

In a paraphrase and direct quote of John Frame, Keller explains in Worship By the Book the difference between "all of life" worship of God, and corporate (the gathered church) worship of God (p. 205):
If you serve the king in his palace, you are doing so all of the time. Yet certainly when the king himself comes into the room where you are working and has a conversation with you, "your service takes on a different character...becomes somewhat ceremonial. You bow, and you remember as best you can the language of homage.... Something like this happens in our relationship to God. All of life is worship...but when we meet him, something special happens."
(The Frame quote was taken from Worship in Spirit and Truth, p. 33)

Say What?!

Perhaps the best Photobomb ever.

Wilco and Feist

So Many Links (10 NOV 2009)

"The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality. It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar...It denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil. It sought to reduce a heinous act to social maladjustment. It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation."

He's not a terrorist. He's a traitor.

Having kids boosts happiness.

What is the Gospel?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Moldovans are Macedonians

Eating to Survive

As I picked at my own food (if you could call it that), I stared at the orphans around me. Coming in ordered droves, they ate like utilitarians, quickly, efficiently. I could see some desperation in their eyes as they shoveled food into their tummies.

We were in the dining hall in a little orphanage in a little village called Tocuz. Meals were basic--some bread, chicken soup perhaps, always some sort of oatmeal--and came at least twice a day, as far as I could tell. Interestingly, the kids spoke very little to one another as they ate. They were all business, you could say, no pleasure. Ranging from 7-16, these kids would never sip on soda or get dessert if they ate everything on their plate. They always ate everything on their plates. As I stared at the devouring, it dawned on me that, for them, eating was a means of survival. Though meals came with some regularity in Tocuz, they could not be depended upon. The eyes of the kids said resoundingly, "This meal could be my last for a while."

I don't understand that in the slightest. I have gone hungry for, maybe, half a day. The only dilemma I have when eating is whether or not I will eat enough or way too much (I usually choose the latter). What a dilemma. The kids in front of me, however, would never experience true bounty. What they had before them was all that they had and, as far as they knew, all they would have for a while. And it was in this context that I saw, perhaps for the first time, true sacrifice.

A Macedonian Before Me

It was nearing the end of the meal and I was watching one girl eat her food. She was one of the matriarchs of the orphanage, probably 14 or 15 years old. She had only finished half of her meal when she promptly stood up. She grabbed her plate, walked briskly across the room, and scraped the rest of her food off on to the plate of a girl much younger, who quickly began inhaling it. The girl had done this before, I'm sure of it, probably every day. Though she needed the food as much as anyone there, she had taken it upon herself to care for the younger ones. Where there was no mommy to provide, she would be the mommy.

As I tried hopelessly to grasp the enormity of what I had just seen, I thought about the Macedonians. The Macedonians, as we learn from Paul, gave when they had nothing to give. 2 Corinthians 8: 1-2: "We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part." This girl was a Macedonian. Generosity had flowed not out of the abundance of her riches, but out of the abundance of grace.

Generosity is not Easy to Come By

Tim Keller says that if you really want to give, you must give sacrificially. That is, you've got to give in a such a way that it hurts. But few of us do that. Very few of us would give the way that girl gave. Why? Several reasons, and they are interconnected.

1. The more we burden ourselves with stuff, the harder it is too free ourselves to actually give any of it away. The show Hoarders is about people who are literally incapable of throwing things away. For a multiplicity of reasons, they collect and collect and collect. And usually, their collection of food or clothes or things grows to such a great degree that getting rid of any of it would prove to be impossible. The same goes for those of us who have plenty. There comes a point when you gather too much stuff to give any of it away. Mountain climbers, for example, rid themselves of anything that isn't useful to them. If they burdened themselves with the extraneous, they'd never make it to the top. How many of us are loaded down with the extraneous? Though it is counter-intuitive, the less we have, the more will give away.

2. There is a direct correlation between wealth building and stinginess. I have spoken to numerous people who believe that giving will come as a result of accumulating money and things. What I have found, however, is that the building of earthly wealth serves as a dandy memory eraser. The more we collect, the more we forget that everything we have is a gift from God. Consequently, the more we collect, the more we believe that what we have is a result of our own ingenuity and discipline. We are owed what we have. So we could say that wealth building reinforces our self-righteousness, the belief that we are our own saviors. And rarely are the self-righteous able to give sacrificially. Giving sacrificially requires faith in something outside of ourselves.

3. The degree to which you give generously will depend on the degree to which you understand how generous Christ was with his own life. Paul does not say that the Macedonians gave out of the goodness of their hearts. Contrary to that, their generosity was a result of the "grace of God." And what is the grace of God? "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." It's pretty simple. The more deeply you understand what Christ gave up for us, the more you will give up for others. But if your generosity is not rooted in the work of Christ on the cross, you will never be sacrificially generous.

The girl was a Macedonian. At 14 years old she had little but gave much. I am 30 now. Will I finally follow her lead?

The Berlin Wall Comes Down

"Twenty years ago, on November 9, 1989, the most visible symbol of totalitarian evil, the Berlin Wall, tumbled down. Two years later, the Soviet Union officially dissolved on Christmas Day 1991. The fall of the Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union transpired in relative calm, but they followed decades of repression, cruelty, and murder by the Soviet regime.

"The trumpet blasts that finally destroyed the Berlin Wall in a peaceful revolution and brought freedom to millions in Eastern Europe were political, economic, diplomatic, and military in character. But it became evident to us in working on our new documentary, Nine Days that Changed the World, that spiritual factors were decisive, as Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan rallied the West to a defense of freedom and human dignity."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Review of Chapman's Album: Beauty Will Rise

Throughout his storied 20-year career, we've mostly heard upbeat praises from Steven Curtis Chapman—though he's known for his relatable public persona. But on Beauty Will Rise, the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling artist's twenty-first and arguably most-anticipated release, he lets listeners into the dark night of the soul he's experienced since the death of his 5-year-old daughter, Maria, on May 21, 2008.

The tragedy so devastated Chapman that he was unsure if he would ever perform again. But over the past 16 months, on the "United Tour" with Michael W. Smith, he used makeshift studios—hotel rooms, tour buses, and dressing rooms—to record 12 cathartic "psalms" of worship and lament, producing his most honest and acoustic effort to date. So honest, in fact, it's impossible not to join Chapman on a veritable roller coaster of emotions.
All in all, it's a graphic tribute of amazing depth, a privileged glimpse into the veteran singer's heavy heart. Moments of hope shine bright, but fans reluctant to enter into a father's anguish should think twice before they buy.
Buy it here.


It Shows That You Don't Believe If You Don't Pray

If you don't subscribe to Kevin DeYoung's blog, you should. His post today on prayer is great. He opens:
Prayer is essential for the Christian, as much for what it says about us as for what it can do through God. The simple act of getting on our knees (or faces or feet or whatever) for 5 or 50 minutes every day is the surest sign of our humility and dependence on Father in heaven. There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not or we think God can give not. Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side. We do not trust in God alone. Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.
Whole thing.

He Is Now Our Enemy

Joe Carter, on how Christians must respond to mass murderer Nidal Malik Hasan:
During times of tragedy, it is often easier to talk about praying than to take time out to pray. But I hope that all of us truly will take the time to pray for those involved in the recent massacre at Fort Hood.

We should pray for the dead, pray for the wounded, pray for the victim’s families . . . and pray for Nidal Malik Hasan.

Although he swore an oath to protect his homeland against all enemies—foreign and domestic—Hasan became a traitor to his country and a murderous enemy to his fellow soldiers. His actions make him an enemy of the state and an enemy of his fellow citizens. He is our enemy now. As such the duty of those who call ourselves Christian is crystal clear: We must love and pray for Hasan.

As Christ’s commanded, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We can be angry, we can grieve, and we can expect Hasan to pay for his crimes. But we must also love and pray for him, remembering that we were once enemies of a God who, though angered and grieved, paid for our crimes with the blood of his only begotten Son.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I've Got Friends

I've posted this Manchester Orchestra song before, but it's so killer that I figured you needed another version.

So Many Links (05 NOV 2009)

Just what I want to see while I'm watching TV: Abortion ads.

7-Eleven has wine!

Raw, real, heartbreaking interview with Steve Curtis Chapman.

What is the glory of God, and why should it be central?

Are guardian angels real? Randy Alcorn says yes.

Fail of the week:

epic fail pictures

Win of the week (year?):

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Moldova Taught Me the Justice of God

My friend leaned into my ear and said, "Do you see the woman standing in the back over there?" We were standing in the tiny village of Suhat, Moldova, surrounded by kids nervously waiting for some new shoes, a bit of soap. I glanced over and instantly knew who he was referring to and why. I had not seen a shiner like that since I had jumped from a chair and elbowed my eight-year-old brother straight in the eye (he deserved it). The woman's lip was busted up too. "It looks really fresh" my friend said. "I'm sure her husband did it."

I am not one usually to wish vengeance upon strangers. That day I did. I quickly thought about ways my friends and I could dispatch the a-hole who thought it a good idea to make a punching bag out of his wife. He was probably drunk when he did it, and probably drunk because he was desperately sad, not being able to provide much for his kids and all. That didn't much matter to me as she tried her best to hide her face from those around her. When I had come up with a relatively good plan to make the guy pay, my eyes were drawn to the other moms. How many of these moms had taken the back of a calloused hand for no good reason or gotten kicked in the kidneys to protect their kids? My plan was not encompassing enough. How would I take all the husbands out? I quickly envisioned myself Rambo with a large, menacing weapon and bulging, sweating muscles. It would take a lot more than I realized.

Suhat is a town long since forgotten, not on any map that I saw. The nearest village shares none of its resources they get from the government and their mayor consistently denies Suhat's existence. Food is so scarce there that meals are far from daily. The kids are dressed up in anything and everything to keep warm. One young girl I saw (an orphan) was dressed in a Playboy t-shirt. Though the rain, snow and brutally muddy roads would come soon, most of the people there would have only sandals to keep the cold from their feet. My plan was worthless. These people would get no justice that day or any day. I was far too small to do anything useful.

And so I must believe that God will have the final say. He must be just. If he is not, then there is no God or, worse, he is not much of a God at all. The scriptures affirm, though, that he is righteous--he must right all the wrongs. "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,'" (Romans 12:19). Though he has shown mercy for a time, his patience will not endure forever. Jesus Christ himself will soon return with a tattoo emblazoned on his leg and a sword tearing out from his mouth (Revelation 19:11-16). He's not coming to make nice.

Suhat exposed me for who I really am: A flaccid sinner clinging desperately to a righteous savior. I am worthless to provide justice. But it is he who hands out soap and it is he who will dispense furious fists.

The Prosperity Gospel in Africa

Via Out of Ur. Words cannot express how infuriating this is to me.

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." -James 3:1

Queens of the Stoneage

He Came to Give You New Appetites

(If you are viewing this post in a reader you might have to click over to see the video.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Images From Moldova

For a taste of Moldova, here are some pictures from the poorest village we visited, called Suhat.

Free Audio Book: Desiring God

Christian Audio is giving away John Piper's Desiring God away for free. This is Piper's seminal work. Click here.

Moldova Made Me Weak

Thanks to all who prayed for me and our church's team while we were away in Moldova. We are back safe, but not sound. God answered my prayer, that I would be made weak by what I saw and experienced. Moldova is beautiful, the people are engaging and kind, the country seems to be growing. Nevertheless, those who live there are, as one person said to me, "in hell." I learned a lot about myself, poverty, the gospel and God on my trip and am grateful for it. I will try and write about my experiences over the next few months.

For your information, our main task in Moldova was to work with an organization called Little Samaritan Mission (LSM), distributing backpacks full of supplies and clothes for kids in the outlying villages of Moldova. And when I say "villages," I mean your prototypical 18/19th century village. For the most part, the villages we visited had little access to the main city of Chisinau, or anything else for that matter. Depressed by stagnant communist rule, a slowing economy, and few natural resources, Moldova is very poor. Many of the villages have no running water or indoor plumbing, limited quantities of food and only basic access to electricity. The backpacks we delivered were literally the only "gifts" these children would receive all year. LSM enlists the support of individuals and churches in the states to fill these backpacks for a project they call Face of a Child.

And so we traversed across the country in a van, sometimes four hours away, delivering bag after bag to smile after smile. "These are gifts not from us but from God" LSM would say to the kids, as they eagerly awaited their overweighted present. I pray they understand that.

Moldova is a crumbling, sad, desperate place. But it is real, and it didn't change much on account of my arrival, and definitely not on my departure. Kids there are still going hungry, wives are still getting beat up by their depressed, drunken husbands, and 16 year old girls too old to stay at the orphanage any longer are forced into a tumultuous world that has very little to offer them except more poverty and, possibly, brazen, profligate danger. No, I didn't change Moldova much at all. And yet, God is still working. He is working despite and through Moldovan corruption and American laziness and droughts and floods and persecution and inert Orthodox faith and me.

May the people of Tocuz, Suhat, Zu Zu Leniei and every in between be given shelter, water, food and the grace of God in Jesus Christ.