Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanks to My Readers

I began this blog on April 1, 2008 (No April fool). That means that, since I was not blogging for all of 2008, today marks the first time I have blogged for an entire calendar year.

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.

10 Questions to Aid in Making Resolutions

From Peter at "Already Not Yet," quoting Don Whitney, here's 10 Questions to Ask in the New Year

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The State of the Blogosphere

Found this interesting article by Trevin Wax on The State of the Blogosphere (or at least the Christian blogosphere). He lists five trends among bloggers and their readers.
#1. The Slow Death of a Large Number of Blogs...
#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...
He then concludes:
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.

A "Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers"

Yeah, I'm talking to you. If the title of this post drew you in, you probably need this!

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:

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:

Sundays: Poetry
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."

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Great Cleavage Between Faith & Unbelief

“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).”

- John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 40.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Christmas Joy

My favorite Christmas present!

Augustine on the Incarnation

Man’s maker was made man,
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

Christmas Always

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!

A Big Word for Christmas- Hypostatic Union

Happy Incarnation Day! It's a good day to celebrate the "Hypostatic Union." The what you say? Here's an explanation from Desiring God

"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

White Christmas

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.")

Glory to God Before Peace on Earth

"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:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Make New

Here's something important to remember, at Christmas or any other time of the year:

“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
Hat Tip: Already Not Yet:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remains of a Home in Nazareth that Jesus May Have Known

"The remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that has been dated back to the time of Jesus have been unveiled - just days before Christmas.

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.
The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres."

See also: A Christmas Present to Nazareth by Ben Witherington

Monday, December 21, 2009

To Be Fully Human

“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

‘Yes’ and ‘No’

“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.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

("Of First Importance" really is a fantastic web site. If you are not reading it regularly, I recommend you start.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Central Point of History

"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

Three Truths About Us

The quote below is from Jared Wilson at The Gospel-Driven Church: 3 Things I Know About Myself and Others. The three things he says he knows about himself are also true about me.
1. Hurt people hurt people.

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.
Bet they are true about you too!

How to Benefit from the Bible: Step Five

Now to conclude this series How to Benefit from the Bible quoting from Straight Up, here's Step Five: Share It!
"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

The Great Transference

"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 —

How to Benefit from the Bible: Step Four

(From How to Benefit from the Bible) Step One: Read It. Step Two: Question It. Step Three: Plan It. Now Step Four: Pray It:
"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

The Good News of the Trinity

The "Threeness" is everywhere!
"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

How to Benefit from the Bible: Step Three

This is part three continuing excerpts from James MacDonald's post on How to Benefit from the Bible. Step One was "Read It." Step two was "Question It." Step three is "Plan It."

"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

"A Merrie Theologiane"

Just discovered the Theology Network through Facebook. Love this quote!
"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!

How to Benefit from the Bible: Step Two

This is part two of excerpts from How to Benefit from the Bible by James MacDonald at "Straight Up." Step One was "Read it." Step Two is "Question It."

"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.”"

Part Three tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Real Saint Nicholas

Want to know the true history of St. Nicholas, as well a the origins of some of the Santa Claus mythology? Mark Driscoll published the scoop at The Mars Hill Blog Blog Archive » Saint Nicholas:

"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.

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."
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.

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!

How to Benefit from the Bible: Step One

Ever wanted to read and study the Bible for yourself, but feel intimidated as to how? James MacDonald at Straight Up just posted an article on How to Benefit from the Bible. His Step One is: Read It!

"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

How to Be a Diligent Listener

As you are off to church this morning, most probably expecting to hear a sermon from your pastor, have you thought about Being a Diligent Listener?. Tim Challies wrote the following last Tuesday to challenge us to do so, and to explain how:
"...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?"

First Day or Last Day?

Here's an interesting question from Thabiti Anyabwile at "Pure Church": Is Sunday Your First Day or Your Last?
"...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.

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."
What do you think?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Appreciating O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi

I've always loved O. Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi" since I first read it in school.
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.

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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Need Good News, Not Good Advice

“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.

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
Hat Tip: Of First Importance

The Gospel in A Christmas Carol

Yesterday I wrote about the words of the Christmas Carol “Hark, The Herald-Angels Sing” as a mini course in Biblical Theology, and a summary presentation of the Gospel.

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

Post Mortem Update

"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!

There's Just Something About Mary

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.

Theology Course in a Christmas Carol

I've been meditating on the words to one of the best loved Christmas hymns: Charles Wesley's "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing." There is an entire course in Biblical Theology, a summary of Bible truth, in the words to this Carol.

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

A Generational Shift on Abortion in America

Is the Pro-Life side winning in America?

At NewsNote: An Amazing Article on Abortion in New York Magazine - 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."

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...."
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.

The Story behind the Classic

If you love to sing or listen to the Hallelujah Chorus at Christmas time, read Ben Witherington's Handel's Messiah--- the Story behind the Classic

I just bought a CD of the whole thing- Fantastic music with words full of Scripture.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Transformed Wholeness

“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

Hat Tip: The Gospel that Saves « Of First Importance

Discerning the Voices in My Head

"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

In Our Midst

From: “midst” | nakedpastor

False Saviors

“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

Advent Eschatology

Now this is a cool thought worth some more thinking through! From Theological Scribbles:
"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

A Dusting of Snow in Dixie

This picture was taken in my backyard after a dusting of snow overnight. Snow doesn't happen very often down here in Dixie!

Justification: Stand or Fall

Here's Kevin De Young on Justification (in the Christian Science Monitor of all places): The Protestant debate over justification: Here I stand. |
"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.

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."
Me too!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Consider Your Audience

Another great Luther quote:

“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.”

(In Luther's time a doctor was a university professor)

Telling El Diablo to "Kiss This"

"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

The Strange Gospel

“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

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

This book is one I plan to read in 2010.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Five Reasons to Give Books for Christmas

Did you know that books are the perfect Christmas gifts? This list of reasons why books are the best gifts is from CROSS-eyed: 5 Reasons to Give Books for Christmas:
"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.

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."
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.

All I want for Christmas is my favorite books!

World AIDS Day

My friend Elysa at Musings from Graceland has written a thoughtful and moving discussion on World Aids Day, and how the Lord changed her heart about AIDS victims through here missionary connections in Swaziland, Africa She served as a missionary there in the 80's, her daughter went there on a mission trip last summer, and the family has maintained connections there.

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.
I recommend her article for your consideration and prayer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Keep It In Its Place

"You can love your theology all you like but your theology will never love you
back. "

Robin Parry at Theological Scribbles: Thought for the Day: putting theology in its place

(A good thing for Theology geeks like me to remember)

The Third Option

Another great quote from the Tim Keller profile at New York Magazine:
"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.”"