- John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 40.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Thanks to all who have stopped by to read my thoughts, collections of quotes and miscellaneous links. I am grateful for and humbled by your time spent here.
- What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
- What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
- In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
- What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
- What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
- For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
- What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
- What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
- What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
#1. The Slow Death of a Large Number of Blogs...He then concludes:
#2. The Turn to Other Social Media for Connection...
#3. The Solidifying Reading Patterns of Blog Readers
#4. The Difficulty of Beginning a Successful Blog without an Already-Existing Platform...
#5. The Building of Blog Congregations at the Expense of Blog Conversation...
Where to Now? Where will blogging go in the 2010’s? I’m not sure. I suspect that the initial stage of the blog wave is over. What we are seeing now is the maturation of the blogosphere, as blogging continues to take on characteristics of traditional media, while leaving the door cracked open for newcomers to make their voices heard.Follow the link for more explanation and details. If you are either a blogger or an avid reader of blogs, it will be worth your while.
I found this "Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers at Justin Taylor, quoting Andy Perry.
"Therefore, let me suggest a new kind of reading plan for 2010, one that writer Margie Haack calls ‘The Bible Reading Plan for Slackers and Shirkers’ (I love that title!). Advantages to this plan include:Sounds like a good idea! If nothing else is working for you, or you want to try a new plan for 2010, you might try this.
Removing the pressure to ‘keep up’ with getting through the entire Bible in a year.
Providing variety throughout the week by alternating genres.
Providing continuity by reading the same genre each day of the week.
In a nutshell, here’s how it works:
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)
The advantage of this plan is that it provides guidance as we read each day but does not put us on an internal guilt trip if we miss a day – we just pick up with the next reading on the day it happens to be. Also, this plan allows us to see the many interconnections between sections of Scripture. So, as Margie puts it, on the same day you may be reading about God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis and a few days later read Paul’s commentary on the Abrahamic covenant in Romans."
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
“There is no greater cleavage between faith and unbelief than in their respective attitudes to the cross. Where faith sees glory, unbelief sees only disgrace. What was foolishness to Greeks, and continues to be to modern intellectuals who trust in their own wisdom, is nevertheless the wisdom of God. And what remains a stumbling-block to those who trust in their own righteousness, like the Jews of the first century, proves to be the saving power of God (1 Cor. 1:18-25).”Hat Tip: Of First Importance
Saturday, December 26, 2009
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
- Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)Hat Tip: Kingdom People
Friday, December 25, 2009
In Narnia it was said that the White Witch made it always winter and never Christmas.
For all who are in Christ it is always Christmas, no matter the season. May the spirit of the season stay with us all year.
Merry Christmas to all!
"The term hypostatic union is much easier than it sounds, but the concept is as profound as anything in the universe—the personal union of the eternal Son of God with our humanity.
The English adjective hypostatic comes from the Greek word hupostasis. The word only appears four times in the New Testament—maybe most memorably in Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is said to be “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Here the author of Hebrews uses the word in reference to the oneness of God. Both the Father and the Son are of the same “nature.” Jesus is “the exact imprint of his nature.”.........So “hypostatic union” may sound fancy in English, but it’s a pretty simple term. Hypostatic means personal. The hypostatic union is the personal joining of Jesus’ two natures in one person.
Jesus has two complete natures—one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus."
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The AMC Channel is running a marathon of "White Christmas" today - and I intend to watch it!
Nothing spiritual about the movie. It's only peripherally about Christmas. But my wife and I love it. Merry Christmas, Everybody.
(Little know facts about "White Christmas.")
"Isn’t it interesting how in Christmas cards and on public displays we often see the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men”? But how seldom we see the prior words, “Glory to God in the highest”! But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God’s glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified. "
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. from Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.
Hat Tip: Crossway.blog
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.” - C.S. Lewis
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The find that could shed new light on what the hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a boy, Israeli archaeologists said.
See also: A Christmas Present to Nazareth by Ben Witherington
Monday, December 21, 2009
“We will never understand what it is to be human and will never be fully human until we take seriously our purpose in being created for Christ.”
- Kirsten Birkett, “I Believe in Nature: An Exploration of Naturalism and the Biblical Worldview“
Hat Tip: Of First Importance
Hat Tip: Of First Importance
“Jesus’ announcement of the gospel constitutes a resounding ‘yes’ to his good creation and at the same time a decisive ‘no’ to the sin that has perverted it.”
- M. Goheen and A. Wolters, Postscript to Albert Wolters Creation Regained (Grand Rapids, Mi.; Eerdmans, 2005), 121.
("Of First Importance" really is a fantastic web site. If you are not reading it regularly, I recommend you start.)
Sunday, December 20, 2009
"In the Christian theology of history, the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge; hence all the roads of the future diverge.”- Stephen Neill, quoted by John Stott in The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 45."
Hat Tip: Of First Importance:
Saturday, December 19, 2009
1. Hurt people hurt people.Bet they are true about you too!
2. If Satan can't get me to be despondent through recall of my past sins, he will try to get me bitter and graceless by reminding me of others' sins against me. I may not always agree with his condemnation of myself, but he knows it's really easy to get me to say "Yeah!" to condemnation of others.
3. The key not just to appreciation of what I've got but to thankfulness in all things is recognizing I don't deserve anything good.
"When you’ve learned something from God’s Word, you have to share it with somebody else. Take time to relay something about your study to your spouse or your roommate or to a friend at school. Maybe you could share with a co-worker or someone at your church. Hebrews 10:24 says that we are supposed to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” That is what happens when you share what you are getting out of God’s Word. People who hear me preach and see my enthusiasm think, Man, that guy really loves to preach. But I don’t. I hardly care about preaching at all—at least not as an end in itself. What fires me up is hearing about the difference that God’s Word makes in people’s lives. If I got up each Sunday and preached knowing nobody would apply it, I wouldn’t even show. That’s the truth. The reason we share God’s Word is not for ourselves; it’s for others. Then, as a by-product, we get the incredible blessing of seeing Almighty God use it."
Friday, December 18, 2009
"Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness."
- John Calvin
Hat tip: Having Become With Us the Son of Man — DashHouse.com:
"So often people are unsure of what to say in personal prayer. When you are praying back the truths of God’s own Word, you can be confident you are praying as God would have you do. You can also be confident that God will respond to what you are asking if the direction truly comes from His Word. That’s what it means to pray according to God’s will. How I wish I had read a book this specific and practical 20 years ago. It would have helped me so much. Instead, I banged around for a long time before I figured all this stuff out. Anyway, at least you can learn from my mistakes. There is an incredible power when you pray God’s Word back to Him. When you open the passage and say, “God, You’re this way, and you’ve promised to always be this way.” Wow! So read it. Question it. Plan it. Pray it."
Thursday, December 17, 2009
"Everywhere you look you can trace a trinitarian structure to Christian truth and Christian living. At creation the Father creates through his Son, breathing his Spirit into humanity. At the incarnation, the Father sends the Son into the world in the power of the Spirit. In divine revelation, the Father reveals through his Word (his Son) whose revelation comes to us in the Spirit-inspired word of God (the Bible) and speaks to our hearts through the illumination of the Spirit. We pray to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit. The church is the people of God, the body of Christ and the community of the Holy Spirit. We have assurance because of the electing love of the Father, the finished work of the Son and the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit. ‘We live, move and have our being,’ says Robert Letham, ‘in a pervasively trinitarian atmosphere.’ Walter Kasper calls the Trinity ‘the grammar’ of salvation. The Son works for us and the Spirit works in us in fulfilment of the Father’s will."Tim Chester- Theology Network - Doctrine of God - The Good News of the Trinity
"This is absolutely essential if you are going to benefit from the Bible as much as you could for the rest of your life. Make a plan of action regarding how you will implement what you are learning. Have a journal open beside your Bible and write some notes. Write some thoughts in the margin of your Bible. When the Word convicts you about anger or deceit or selfishness, have a strategy to deal with those sins. Make your plan specific and measurable. The results you begin to see will amaze you. Read it. Question it. Plan it."
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"Here we believe that good theology is not something dry and dusty. Good theologians are a merry breed. Why? The good theologian chuckles at how absurdly good the gospel of Jesus is. He laughs, because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. And he knows the power of a good giggle: tittering at what tempts him robs it of its power. So don’t be a pompous ass. Be a merrie theologiane!"See Theology Network - Merrie Theologiane
I want to be a "Merrie Theologiane" too!
Part Three tomorrow.
"Because you’re just starting out, I’ll suggest some questions, and over time you can develop your own.
1. “What portion of my reading stands out to me?” You’ll read two or three chapters, and you’ll feel drawn to a certain part. Go back to that part and ask the following questions.
2. “Why does this part have my attention?” What is it about this that has caught my attention? To help you answer that question, use the remaining questions.
3. “Is there an example for me to follow?” I can’t tell you how many times God’s Word has impacted my life just from saying these simple words: “Is there an example for me to follow?” All of a sudden it’s like—BOOM! It jumps right off the page: “James, you should be more like that!” I love it when God’s Word speaks to me in this way and calls me to be more of what the Lord requires.
4. “Is there an error for me to avoid?” It’s very comforting to know that if I have unknowingly stepped in a wrong direction or made an unwise decision, God’s Word can reveal that to me. It’s easy to see the mistakes others make, but much harder to see our own mistakes. This is where the Word of God becomes that “mirror” we talked about earlier. Is there an error for me to avoid?
5. “Is there a duty for me to perform?” Is there an action that God’s Word is calling me to take? Is there some matter of importance that I am neglecting in my home or office or in my personal life? If so, I want to know what it is so I can work on it. God’s Word will often reveal a duty we need to perform.
6. “Is there any promise for me to claim?” So often God’s Word brings strength and encouragement. As you study the Bible, you will hear the Lord committing Himself to certain things or to act in certain ways. As you come to those promises, you might just acknowledge, “Yes, God! You are like this, and You’ve promised to be this way for all my life, and I trust You.” Your heart will be thrilled as you learn and review the promises of God.
7. “Is there a sin for me to confess?” This I suppose is obvious in some respects. You won’t read the Bible long until you come across passages that reveal to you the “error of your ways.” But one of the promises that helps with that is 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”"
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
"Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.Mark has some interesting info in this article that I did not know, such as the name Kris Kringle coming from Christkindl, "Christ Child" in German. You can read the whole thing at the link above.
Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery."
Well, the Russian icon of Nicholas that I found at Wikipedia doesn't look anything like Santa Claus, but I'm still going to say Ho, ho, ho everybody!
"If you pick it up and size it up but don’t read it, well, what a waste, right? So open it, and begin to read. You should say, “Dude, it has hundreds of pages. Where should I start?” I hear that so often that I decided to check the Bibles I own. They average around 1,400 pages. So think of the Bible as two big books or four to five regular-sized books. Studies indicate that the Bible takes about 70 hours to read out loud. Most people read a little faster than that, but the Bible is not a book you want to read quickly anyway. It’s sort of like your favorite dessert—take a bite or two and put the spoon down—a good way to make sure you are comprehending the power of what you are reading. If you read it for 12 minutes per day, or one and a half hours per week, you would have no problem finishing the Bible in a year, and you’d be so incredibly blessed you would want to start all over again the next year. Reading the Bible is really not as intimidating as most people make it.
As for where to start, I have always recommended that people begin in the gospel of John, which is the fourth book in the New Testament, the fourth eyewitness account of the life of Jesus. As you read slowly through this gospel, stop to underline the word believe every time you see it and ask yourself: Believe what? Or believe whom? Then go to 1, 2, and 3 John. Then look at another gospel. That’ll keep you busy for a while. Have a brief word of prayer before you begin to read. Ask the Lord to open you mind and heart to His truth and then believe that He will. Also, don’t lie down when you read the Bible. It’s not a magazine or a novel. Remember, it’s God’s Word, and if you give it the respect it deserves, it will “rock your world” in an incredible way. If you use serious posture, you’ll get serious results. Read it. I suggest taking at least 15 minutes to go through two or three chapters at a time.
Step Two tomorrow.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
"...while a pastor bears great responsibility in preparing for and delivering the Word of God each Sunday, the listener shares in the responsibility. The church has no place for an audience. We are all to be involved in the preaching, even as listeners. We may drive home on Sunday muttering about the pastor’s lack of preparation after a less-than-engaging sermon, but how often do we drive away reflecting on our own lack of preparation? How often should we trace our lack of learning or our lack of engagement right back to our own lack of preparation?"He concludes:
"While the responsibility of the preacher cannot be underestimated, the listener is also responsible before God. We, as those who sit under the preaching of the Word, are to prepare ourselves even during the week. And on the Lord’s Day we are to listen attentively, to search the Scriptures and to apply what we have learned to our lives. I fear that far too often we expect the pastor to do the work and while we coast along as the beneficiaries of his hard labor. It is time for us to take seriously our role in the preaching of the Word of God. I post this article on a Tuesday. Perhaps it is worth asking: what are you doing today to gain the greatest benefit from the sermon you heard just two days ago? And what are you doing today to prepare yourself for the sermon you will hear just five short days from now?"
"...Far too often we approach Sunday as the day we rest from the week gone by rather than the day of first fruits, of beginning with the Lord and shaping our hearts and souls for the week ahead. When that happens, God gets the leftovers and the world gets the best part of us.What do you think?
On Sunday nights, most of us will begin routines designed to help us get off to a good start for the week. We'll select the children's clothes for school. We'll perhaps pack lunches. Spouses will coordinate schedules, being sure important meetings and outings are highlighted. Thoughts will turn to work: tasks to get done, meetings to attend, and so on. In short, we prepare for the week now that Sunday is over.
How would it affect our souls and our weeks to simply back the preparation up one day so that Sunday is the first day of the week and the Saturday the night of our preparation for all that's ahead? What if we invested considerable energy planning to get off to a good start with the Lord and His people, and planning to give the leftovers to lesser lords? How would we benefit if we lived for the Lord's Day rather than living for the weekend? I think the effect would be noticeable and almost immediate."
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Ben Witherington has written an interesting appreciation of this classic story.
The story is at once a beautiful romantic story about true self-sacrificial love, and also a Christmas story, which talks about gift giving, in the tradition of the Magi. If you would like to read the precis of the story you can find it at this link which you can cut and paste into your browser. http://www.online-literature.com/o_henry/1014/.
What I like best about this Christmas story is not merely that it is free from the materialism and narcissism that so plagues the Christmas season of our era but also that it reminds us of a simpler time in our country where there could be an innocence and self-sacrificial quality to a romantic story without it being a fairy tale. Indeed, I could tell you a story very much like it from my own family. In the meantime, if you are looking for a Christmas story to read your children, forget about Grinches that steal Christmas or Scrooges that sour it, and go for this one which shows how to keep Christmas....or give it away.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
“The heart of most religions is good advice, good techniques, good programs, good ideas, and good support systems. These drive us deeper into ourselves, to find our inner light, inner goodness, inner voice, or inner resources.Hat Tip: Of First Importance
Nothing new can be found inside of us. There is no inner rescuer deep in my soul; I just hear echoes of my own voice telling me all sorts of crazy things to numb my sense of fear, anxiety, and boredom, the origins of which I cannot truly identify.
But the heart of Christianity is Good News. It comes not as a task for us to fulfill, a mission for us to accomplish, a game plan for us to follow with the help of life coaches, but as a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed, and achieved everything for us.”
—Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 2009), 20
Here is a list of Bible Doctrines I found in the words of this song after just a quick perusal.
1. Divinity of Christ: “hail, the incarnate Deity”
2. Christ’s Pre-Existence: “the everlasting Lord”
3. Kingdom of God: “the new-born King”
4: Kenosis - Christ’s humbling of Himself: “Mild he lays his glory by”
5: Incarnation: “hail, the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell”
6: Virgin Birth of Christ: “offspring of a Virgin's womb”
7. Christ’s Righteousness: “the Sun of Righteousness”
8. Christ as Savior: “now display thy saving power”
9. Reconciliation: “God and sinners reconciled”
10. Christ’s Victory over Satan: “bruise in us the serpent's head”
11. New Birth: “born to give them second birth.”
12. New Nature in Christ: “ruined nature now restore”
13. Eternal Life: “born that man no more may die”
14. Being in Christ: “now in mystic union join, thine to ours and ours to thine”
15. Resurrection: “born to raise the sons of earth”
Can you find more?
Think about all the people who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior who will be listening to and singing this song over the next two weeks. What an opportunity to share with them the Gospel! Lord, open our eyes to see the openings before us.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
"Herbert suddenly realized he would need to update his Facebook status."
Hat Tip: Surprise Appointment The Sacred Sandwich
Can you do a mobile update or Tweet from the afterlife? He may have to get someone else to make that status update for him!
What to make of Mary? If Roman Catholics seem to overdo the Mary thing, we protestants may be under appreciating her. And Mary is worth appreciating. Check this out from John at "Jesus the Radical Pastor" - Ave, Maria!
Mary was a pregnant teen out of wedlock. Her betrothal to Joseph was not the same as a legitimate marriage. When Mary became pregnant with Jesus and made her pregnancy known to Joseph, he was rightly shocked and wanted to break the betrothal for he was known as “a righteous man.” Mary’s virtue certainly would be questioned and scorned; she and the child would be poor and dependent as beggars. Joseph’s reputation would be defiled, and the son born to Mary would be considered illegitimate (a back-handed insult thrown at Jesus by the Pharisees in John 8:41). Faced with Joseph’s disappointment, with her culture’s insults and rejection, and her son’s future as illegitimate and, therefore, very limited in society, Mary says to Gabriel after his announcements to her, “I am the Lord’s servant…. May it be to be as you have said.” Or, as a teen might say today, “Bring it on!”
Gutsy, obedient, surrendered, undoubtedly anxious, Mary takes her place in the Christmas story. God’s plan meant public disgrace for her and for Joseph. Matthew writes that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to encourage Joseph to stay committed to Mary in the face of the societal rejection to come. Joseph meets his own crisis of faith and he, too, surrenders to God’s plan. Yes, a lowly carpenter becomes (step)father to the King of Kings.
Knowing this, I find my heart welling up to shout “Ave, Maria!” You go, girl! And “Ave, Joseph!” You da man! For it is by your tough obedience in the face of your society’s scorn that Jesus (“Yahweh saves!”) was brought into being and raised as an obedient son. I imagine that Jesus often looked lovingly at Mary, thanking the Father for her gritty perseverance in birthing and raising Jesus. I imagine Jesus working next to Joseph and thinking that this man lost his standing in the community in order for me to have a life among my people. “Ave, Jesus!” Hail, Jesus, you come from a very good family.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
'Christ is born in Bethlehem.'
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
Come, Desire of nations, come,
fix in us thy humble home;
rise, the woman's conquering seed,
bruise in us the serpent's head;
now display thy saving power,
ruined nature now restore,
now in mystic union join
thine to ours and ours to thine.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
How many Gospel doctrines can you find in these words? I'll give my summary tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
At NewsNote: An Amazing Article on Abortion in New York Magazine - AlbertMohler.com Dr. Mohler reviews an article in New York Magazine by Jennifer Senior on abortion in America, and how "pro-choice" New Yorkers view their cause.
"In "The Abortion Distortion -- Just How Pro-choice is America, Really?," writer Jennifer Senior offers an incredibly insightful and important essay on the moral status of abortion in the American mind. Senior is clearly writing to a New York readership -- expected to be overwhelmingly pro-choice and settled in a posture of abortion advocacy."After quoting from and discussing Senior's article, Mohler concludes:
"She also understands the great generational shift taking place on the issue. She recognizes that the current generation of younger voters "is the most pro-life to come along since the generation born during the Great Depression." Why? This same generation is the first to grow up with ultrasound images taped to the refrigerator door. Their understanding of the fetus is dramatically different from those who never had to face those images. Furthermore, Senior also raises the fascinating insight that the big technological advance experienced by this generation was IVF -- a technology that allowed having babies rather than not having them. This generation of adolescents and young adults understand the issue in terms of infant human life. They do not see a mere fetus, they recognize a baby. Nancy Keenan of NARAL is cited as saying that the biggest defenders of abortion are now a "menopausal militia."Now more than ever, we should keep praying for a shift of the American public and corporate conscience on the issue of abortion. Progress has been made: let's press on to complete victory.
Senior also deals with the troubled moral conscience of the pro-choice movement and abortion providers with remarkable candor. She reports that abortion counselors "will also tell you that the stigma attached to the procedure is worse than it's been in years." She cites Charlotte Taft, operator of a Dallas abortion clinic, who had knowledge to a reporter that "women knew abortion is a kind of killing." Jeannie Ludlow is cited for her uncomfortable at the in seeing repeat-abortion patients. The horror and reality of late-term abortions is documented -- even as the continued "right" right to such procedures is advocated.
By any measure, Jennifer Senior has written one of the most honest, revealing, insightful, and important articles on abortion to appear in recent history. At the same time, it is one of the most troubling...."
Monday, December 7, 2009
“Some think of the gospel as so slender it does nothing more than get us into the kingdom. After that the real work of transformation begins. But a biblically-faithful understanding of the gospel shows that gospel to be rich, powerful, the wisdom of God and the power of God, all we need in Christ. It is the gospel that saves us, transforms us, conforms us to Christ, prepares us for the new heaven and the new earth, establishes our relations with fellow-believers, teaches us how to work and serve so as to bring glory to God, calls forth and edifies the church, and so forth. This gospel saves — and ’salvation’ means more than just ‘getting in,’ but transformed wholeness.”
- D. A. Carson, “Four Questions with D. A. Carson“
"I’ve learned by experience that many Christians cannot distinguish the promptings of the Holy Spirit from the accusations of Satan. The difference is this: The Holy Spirit convicts us for sins that we have been unwilling to face in God’s presence; Satan makes us feel guilty for sins that are already under the blood of Christ — that is, for sins that we have already confessed. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our sins before we are cleansed; Satan continues to remind us of them after we are cleansed."
~Erwin Lutzer in the December 5, 2009 devotional reading from Our Journey
Quoted at: Voices in My Head: Discernment « Thinking Out Loud
Sunday, December 6, 2009
“If we are deeply moved by the sight of his love for us, it detaches our hearts from other would-be saviors. We stop trying to redeem ourselves through our pursuits and relationships, because we are already redeemed. We stop trying to make others into saviors, because we have a Savior.”
- Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 45.
Hat Tip: Of First Importance
"Christian theology traditionally sees 'eschatology' as a subdivision of systematics dealing with the return of Jesus, judgement, heaven, and hell. It is typically set aside in a box of its own, separate from the theology concerned with the story of Jesus' first coming.
Advent, by bringing the first and second advents into doxological communion, warns us against hermetically sealing off eschatology in such a way. I think that Greg Beale was spot-on in his essay 'The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology' (1997) when he observed that the whole of NT theology is eschatology.
Advent alerts us to what I yesterday called the two-phase eschatology of the NT (in fact, I think that this is over simplistic as the place of AD 70 also need factoring in along with the fall of Rome, etc.). It makes us recognize that the coming of God-in-Christ is an eschatological event from first to last. It teaches us that we need to see Christmas as an end-time event in the story of God's engagement with creation.
I wonder what light that might shed?"
Saturday, December 5, 2009
"Much of the impotence of American churches is tied to a profound ignorance and apathy about justification. Our people live in a fog of guilt. Or just as bad, they think being a better person is all God requires. Even a cursory look at church history in the past few hundred years shows that the church is at its best and most vibrant when justification through faith alone is heard from her pulpits and clearly articulated by her most prominent spokesmen.Me too!
After so much time and so many controversies, there are still plenty of Protestants – be they Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, or Pentecostal – who still believe justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. I guess I'm one of them."
Friday, December 4, 2009
“When I preach I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have above forty in my congregation; I have all my eyes on the servant maids and on the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, well, the door is open.”
"It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside. . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, 'The forgiveness of sins covers it all,' I have won."
-- Martin Luther
Hat Tip: Jared at The Thinklings
Thursday, December 3, 2009
“To the extent that we remains pilgrims in this life, the gospel will remain strange even to us. Until the day we die, we will struggle to believe the bad news and Good News that God announces to us. We do not just naturally think that we are born in sin, spiritually dead, helpless, and unable to lift a finger to save ourselves or impress a holy God. As a result, it does not just occur to us that our greatest need is to be redeemed, justified, regenerated, sanctified, and glorified by God’s saving work in his Son and by his Spirit.
If the ‘Good News’ that we proclaim is determined by what we already know—or think we know—it isn’t really news. Limited to whatever we already think is relevant, practical, and useful, the message will never be surprising, disorienting, and troubling. It can never throw us off balance or cause us reevaluate our priorities and interpretations of reality.”
—Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 2009), 19
This book is one I plan to read in 2010.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
"1. Good books tend to be gifts that last a long time. People don't throw away good books. They pass them on to their children, grandchildren, and church libraries. Sweaters, ties, and fruitcakes are relatively short-lived.Anybody listening. Hint, hint. I mean, just in case you might want to give me a meaningful and lasting Christmas gift. A link to my Amazon Wish list is prominently located on this blog site.
2. Good books are used by God to change people's lives. I have never heard of someone's life being changed by an ornament, an atomic clock, or a gift card to the GAP.
3. Think of the cumulative effect of giving books for presents. If you give a certain person a book every year for 50 years, you help them build a library.
4. Good books communicate care for a person. In giving someone a book you like, you are communicating something of how that book has helped you.
5. Good books tend to open conversations about spiritual things easily."
Swaziland had been flooded with disease and death as a result of HIV/AIDS. When I had lived there in the 1980's, no one talked about HIV/AIDS. Well, almost no one. I remember one missionary doctor telling my brother that the HIV/AIDS rate among the general population was the same as the rate of infection among the prostitutes. I stored that fact away in my brain somewhere but it didn't seem real as I didn't personally know of anyone affected. And at that time, the rate was still relatively low. But fast forward nearly 20 years and Swaziland had become the nation with the highest HIV/AIDS rate and the lowest life expectancy in the world...and as a result, a rapidly growing orphan population as parents began, as described by a Swazi pastor, "dropping like flies".
Estimates of the infection rate range from 1/4 to nearly 1/2 of the population. 1/3 seems like a safe bet. One out of three!
That hit me hard. I realized that the preschool children I had sang silly songs with and the youth girls that I had hosted sleepovers for at my house were among these
infected. And because so few are being adequately treated, most of them are
dying horrific deaths. My babies. My students. My fellow church members. My
neighbors. Dying, dying, dying.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
"You can love your theology all you like but your theology will never love you(A good thing for Theology geeks like me to remember)
Robin Parry at Theological Scribbles: Thought for the Day: putting theology in its place
"Keller is on a promotional tour for Counterfeit Gods. Over the phone, in a car on the way to the St. Louis airport, he’s unpacking the Redeemer theology for me. His belief system is not the fundamentalist strain running through many of the Bible Belt megachurches—the “saved” us versus the “heathen” them. Nor is it the new-school “be a winner, praise the Lord,” Christian self-esteem-building ideology of Joel Osteen. Keller advocates something of a third option. He wants to call people’s attention to the emptiness of a way of living that overvalues worldly achievement and to help them see the spiritual benefits of accepting Jesus Christ, and all he stands for, as their savior. But Keller wants to do that in a way that’s not intellectually insulting or morally hectoring. What he refers to as “idols,” he says, are the things we’re so wrapped up in, it’s as if we worship them as gods, in place of the one true God. Traditional vices like sex and drink can be idols, he says, but more insidious can be traditional virtues like hard work and family—“good” things that we can mistake for “ultimate” ones. “The way you can tell your love for something has turned idolatrous is that you basically destroy the thing you love,” he says. “Overwork often leads to destruction—people who overreach and cheat or have health breakdowns. If you put too much on your children, your kids can be crushed by your expectations for their happiness and success.”"
Monday, November 30, 2009
New York Magazine has done an excellent profile on Tim Keller and his ministry in Manhatten - See Why Are So Many New Yorkers Flocking to Evangelical Christian Preacher Tim Keller? -- New York Magazine
It’s a Sunday evening at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and the pews are full. Redeemer is a conservative Evangelical Christian congregation, but the parishioners don’t fit the easy Bible Belt stereotypes. They are a cross-section of yuppie Manhattanites—doctors, bankers, lawyers, artists, actors, and designers, some of them older, most of them in their twenties or thirties. The peppy Christian-pop anthems, performed by Broadway-caliber singers and working jazz professionals, seem to go by in double time, the faster the better to get to the main event, the weekly sermon, delivered by pastor Tim Keller.
Keller is a 59-year-old bald, large-framed man, dressed today in a blue blazer and gray slacks. For those expecting hellfire and brimstone, the first surprise is the voice. Keller doesn’t speak in theatrical, over-the-top tones but in a soft, conversational manner, as if he’s sharing a confidence with a friend. For today’s sermon on a passage from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk, in which a minor Jewish prophet rails about the misery brought on by the Babylonians in the seventh century B.C., Keller jumps to the recession and what he sees as shameful finger-pointing by both liberals and conservatives. “The Bible doesn’t let you do that,” Keller intones from the pulpit. “The Bible is nowhere near as simplistic, dare I say it, as either the New York Times’ or The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. You can write that down. Put it on your blog, I don’t care.”
Sunday, November 29, 2009
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
"I suddenly realized that I had undervalued the Gospel by treating it as merely the starting point of the Christian life, instead of as the all-encompassing source of truth and grace that empowers all of the Christian life."Read the whole story at Themelios - Issue 33-1 - How a Mega-Church is Rediscovering the Gospel
(and yeah, there is a Tim Keller connection. I thank God for his ministry!)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
It is with great joy that I announce that next June I will be a Grandfather - married to the best looking Grandmother in the world.
Congratulations to daughter Michelle and son-in-law Zane. We are so excited and blessed by this good news.
“The gospel creates the kind of community that is even now an imperfect preview of the kingdom’s marriage feast that awaits us. The church originates, flourishes, and fulfills its mission as that part of God’s world that has been redeemed and redefined by this strange announcement that seems foolish and powerless to the rest of the world.”
—Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 2009), 11
"We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. "(Psalm 75:1)Thanks be to God today for all his abundant and wonderful gifts - life, health, family, job, and most of all the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”(2 Chron. 20:21)
"Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. "(Psalm 140:13)
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign." (Rev. 11:17)
Monday, November 23, 2009
The document, released last Friday with signatures from a very wide range of Christian leaders of many traditions and denominations, proclaims strong ecumenical support for life, marriage and liberty, as follows:
The entire text can be fond at the link above. Some other endorsements:
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
- the sanctity of human life
- the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
- the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Al Mohler Why I Signed the Manhatten Declaration
National Catholic Register
Facebook page is here.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
What you may not know is that another famous person died on that same day: C. S. Lewis.
As a young teenager looking for rational reasons to support my faith, I found C.S. Lewis to be the one author who truly met that need. I have read Mere Christianity and Miracles over and over again throughout my life. Those books are never old to me, but seem fresh each time I read them. Later I discovered his novels, especially Perelandria, and found a new way to expand both my imagination and my faith. Lewis' influence is today touching new generations who discover The Chronicles of Narnia through the movies. Countless Christians leaders and ordinary saints can and do attest today to the tremendous influence of Lewis on every generation since he died.
Jared at The Thinklings wrote the following tribute to Lewis, with which I heartedly agree.
C.S. Lewis's influence on modern Christianity is unmatched to this day. No other Christian has come close to rivaling his place at the summit of Christian literature. No other Christian has come close to influencing Christian thought in the 20th and 21st centuries more than he. That is why I believe Lewis has been the single most influential Christian of the 20th century. No one -- not even Billy Graham -- has left such a indelible mark on Christian culture. Graham may win the souls, but Lewis builds them up. You might not be able to get an atheist to read Graham's How to be Born Again, but I bet you could get him to read Lewis's The Abolition of Man. And he'd be better off for it.Thank you Lord, for sending us "Jack" Lewis. He made, and is still making, a big difference.
Friday, November 20, 2009
"Nothing in all the universe is as powerful as Jesus.
Jesus is before and behind all things.
Jesus has life in Himself.
The living One died...for our sins.
Jesus rose from the dead and will never die again.
Jesus possess absolute sovereignty over all things.
'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.'"
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
German archaeologists have discovered the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation — a stone toilet on which the constipated Martin Luther wrote the Ninety-Five Theses that launched the creation of Europe's Protestant churches.Glad to know we have now uncovered the birthplace of the - ahem - reformation "movement."
Scholars had always known that the 16th-century religious leader suffered from acute constipation and spent hours in contemplation on the toilet seat.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Jesus became real to me in 1970, during the youth revival known as the "Jesus Movement." Those were exciting and heady days. Sometimes it seemed like you could just walk down the hall at many high schools and just breathe on people and they would get saved.
Ocean baptisms, giant rallies, concerts from the early days of contemporary Christian music (before the "suits" from the record companies took it over) - I saw it all. Most of the Christian leaders in American churches who are now in their 50's and even 60's got their spiritual start in the Jesus Movement of the 1970's.
This week I ran across this article by Bill Faris at JUST MY TYPE on The Genius of the Jesus People Movement
The genius of the Jesus People movement of the late 1960's and 70's was not the theological sophistication of it's adherents. It wasn't money, or programming, or a centrally-coordinated effort to impact youth culture launched by existing Christian leaders or sociological experts. I believe the genius of the Jesus People movement was the empowerment of everyday people to take the ministry of Jesus to everyday places - from school campuses to coffeehouses. From private homes to rock concerts. From streetcorners to city parks. "Jesus Freaks" were always looking for opportunities to take the gospel to the places and environments where the people of their generation lived their daily lives. The whole world was their mission field and "church" could happen anywhere, anytime.Perhaps the key to a genesis of a new "Jesus Movement" for another generation is for believers to just try taking the Gospel and the power of the Spirit outside our church walls. It happened once before, 40 years ago.
As a veteran of that experience, I believe we who follow Christ now would do well to re-discover this way of life. It's not about trying to go back to the "old days". It's not about nostalgia or recreating a bygone era or somehow updating its symbols. But I am convinced that there is an inhertiance given by the Holy Spirit to the Church that remains available to us now -- especially to those of us who know better than to keep ministry within the walls of church buildings.
Jesus is still the same Jesus. So, why can't it happen again?
Monday, November 16, 2009
"I will glory not because I am righteous but because I am redeemed; I will glory not because I am free from sins but because my sins are forgiven me. I will not glory because I have done good nor because someone has done good to me but because Christ is my advocate with the Father and because the blood of Christ has been shed for me."
(St. Ambrose of Milan, De Jacob et vita beata, ch. 6, as quoted in Examination of the Council of Trent, Part I, p. 507)
A wave of authentic revival sweeps over the church when three things happen together: teaching the great truths of the gospel with clarity, applying those truths to people’s lives with spiritual power, and extending that experience to large numbers of people. We evangelicals urgently need such an awakening today. We need to rediscover the gospel.Amen to that. However, he goes on to point out what we are like without the Gospel as the center of our church experiences.
Imagine the evangelical church without the gospel. I know this makes no sense, for evangelicals are defined by the evangel. But try to imagine it for just a moment. What might our evangelicalism, without the evangel, look like? We would have to replace the centrality of the gospel with something else, naturally. So what might take the place of the gospel in our sermons and books and cassette tapes and Sunday school classes and home Bible studies and, above all, in our hearts?He is right. His little thought experiment accurately describes what so much of American church experience is like. We focus on so many good things while comparatively missing the ultimate thing.
A number of things, conceivably. An introspective absorption with recovery from past emotional traumas, for example. Or a passionate devotion to the pro-life cause. Or a confident manipulation of modern managerial techniques. Or a drive toward church growth and “success.” Or a deep concern for the institution of the family. Or a fascination with the more unusual gifts of the Spirit. Or a clever appeal to consumerism by offering a sort of cost-free Christianity Lite. Or a sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships. Or a determination to take America back to its Christian roots through political power. Or a warm affirmation of self-esteem. The evangelical movement, stripped of the gospel, might fix upon any or several of such concerns to define itself and derive energy for its mission. In other words, evangelicals could marginalize or even lose the gospel and still potter on their way, perhaps even oblivious to their loss.
But not only is this conceivable, it is actually happening among us right now....
We do need to rediscover the Gospel!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
"Most of us have never really understood that Christianity is not a self-help religion meant to enable moral people to become more moral. We don’t need a self-help book; we need a Savior. We don’t need to get our collective act together; we need death and resurrection and the life-transforming truths of the gospel. And we don’t need them just once, at the beginning of our Christian life; we need them every moment of every day.”
- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, Counsel from the Cross (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009), 30.
Hat Tip: Of First Importance