Friday, December 12, 2008

Rock you like a hurricane...

song chart memes
more music charts

Lots of connections with lots of other funny business...

"I am not saying that Obama had any connection with this particular eBay treatment of his old Senate seat. But he had lots of connections with lots of other funny business -- and Chicago politics is like a clapboard hamlet up in the Appalacians where people have been marrying their sisters and cousins for over a century, and the last thing you want is to have something happen that makes the authorities send some people up there to give everybody a DNA test."

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cry Out to the Lord

I had the pleasure of preaching at Oakridge Community Church in Stillwater, MN last Sunday. My sermon on Psalm 107 is available for listening. Right click to download.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Read this, please...

My kids, who don't get to watch TV much, have still gleaned enough about the national election to be worried. It is not right if kids are worried about the state of our nation, although it is good for them to be aware. My response to them is to remember that God is still on his throne and Jesus is still Lord over all.

Whether you like Douglas Wilson or not, his post from this morning is well worth reading. Please read it, and don't forget that as Christians, we don't trust in horses or chariots or republicans or democrats. We trust in the Lord.

Here are some highlights from his post:
1. God is still Father, Christ is still at His right hand, and the Holy Spirit is still abroad in the world, recreating that world according to the image of Christ. When the nations conspire against Him, He laughs at them.

4. Honor women. Honor your mother, your wife, and your daughters. We live in a culture that despises women, and which has engineered a vast machinery of propaganda designed to get them to surrender to it. If you don't know how to honor, on a day-to-day basis, the women in your life, then learn. Make it a priority.

7. Learn something about economics. Please.

10. Fight in the culture wars as those who gladly serve the triune God of heaven. We are not dogs fighting over a piece of meat, and we must never allow the surly or shrill attitudes of the self-righteous to creep into anything we do. We must be puritan cavaliers, and merry warriors. Fight like a regenerate D'Artanian, and not like a thug with a Bible he stole from the motel, or like a prim and censorious Miss Grundy, she of the pursed lips. We are Christians, not wowsers.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Meditation on Matthew 3:13-17

A Meditation on Matthew 3:13-17

John stared naively at Jesus, words forming on his lips, but no sound coming out. Water lapped at their garments. Finally, he said, “Jesus, I can’t baptize you. I am unworthy. I just told all these people that I am not worthy to untie your sandals. Come on, you need to baptize me.” He looked around at the people on the shore, and started to argue with Jesus again.

Jesus interrupted and said, “John…John.”

John closed his mouth and looked into his cousins’ eyes. They were so dark and deep. Eternity was in there. He hadn’t always seen that look, but once in a while when they were growing up he had seen it. It always caught his breath, and he would forget everything around him and stare into those eyes.

“Permit this now, for in this manner it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” Jesus said.

John continued to look into those eyes. Words and images flashed through his mind. The scroll of Isaiah opened up to him. He saw the suffering servant despised and rejected. He saw him being crushed by God, smitten and afflicted. He remembered Isaiah’s words, “he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Then an image of a Roman cross flashed before him; he saw the crown of thorns, the spear, blood and water, and the sign reading, “King of the Jews.” He saw Mary weeping. And then he saw a stone being rolled away by angels, and Jesus walking out, clean and bright, strong.

John struggled to stay standing in the current of the river. He could feel his robes pressed to his legs and the sand shifting between his toes. His eyes were locked with those deep eternal eyes. Slowly, not able to understand what he had just experienced, he nodded at his cousin and reached for his head. As the images started to make sense, tears streamed down his cheeks. He lowered his cousin into the water, the words "all righteousness" echoing in his ears. Jesus closed his eyes and eternity ceased. Everything became quiet except for his own heartbeat pounding in his head. The water swirled over Jesus’ hair and beard, covering his face in an image of death. John felt the weight of Jesus' body in his hands. He raised him out of the water and those eyes opened again, this time filled with a sad determination. The sound of lapping water and voices from the shore returned. Eternity started again.

As he came out of the water, Jesus grabbed John’s bicep tightly, looked in his eyes again, and nodded back. Then he looked to the heavens as a dove floated down and a voice like water thundered, “This one is my son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Bethlehem College and Seminary

A new website for the "becoming" Bethlehem College and Seminary is up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The older siblings aren't so sure...

Hard to Get, Part 2

In regard to a previous post on Christian music and where all the good music went, I have been pondering what music I listened to in the 1990s.  Clearly, the most listened to musician for me in the 90s was Rich Mullins.  In a sad turn of providence he was killed in a freak car accident on September 19, 1997.

Fortunately, before he died he recorded a demo cassette tape of songs he wrote for an upcoming album.  He recorded the tape with just himself, a piano, a guitar, and a cassette recorder in an old church building on an indian reservation.

In 1998, the two disk album was released, titled The Jesus Record.  Disk one was Rich's actual demo tape, and disk two was a monstrosity of covers by Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, et al.  They really shouldn't have.

Regardless, Rich's song Hard to Get is clearly one of his best songs ever.  The church recording is haunting in its simplicity and touches the soul at a deeper level than anything that would have been produced by a record company.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hard to Get

you who live in heaven
hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
who are afraid of being left by those we love
and who get hardened by the hurt
do you remember when you lived down here
where we all scrape to find the faith to ask for daily bread
did you forget about us after you had flown away
well I have memorized every word you said
still I'm so scared I'm holding my breath
while you're up there just playing hard to get

you who live in radiance
hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
we have a love that's not as patient as yours was
still we do love now and then
did you ever know loneliness
did you ever know need
do you remember just how long a night can get
when you are barely holding on and your friends fall asleep
and don't see the blood that's running in your sweat
will those who mourn be left uncomforted
while you're up there just playing hard to get

and I know you bore our sorrows
and I know you feel our pain
and I know that it would not hurt any less
even if it could be explained
and I know that I am only lashing out
at the one who loves me most
and after I have figured this
somehow what I really need to know is

if you who live in eternity
hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
who can't see what's ahead
and we cannot get free from what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
all these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how your leading me, unless you've led me here
to where I am lost enough to let myself be led
and so, you've been here all along I guess
it's just your ways and you are just plain hard to get

Rich Mullins, The Jesus Demos, 1998.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cry Out to the Lord: A Meditation on Psalm 107

One of the most comforting words that God has spoken into my life the last two months has been this psalm. It begins with a rejoicing cry, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” The very next line is a cry to all those who trust in God, the redeemed, to echo this truth, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so!” But the next clause brings a hint of what this psalm is about, “whom he has redeemed from trouble.” In this psalm it is obvious that redemption is not related to redeeming coupons or paying off a promissory note. Instead it is clear that redemption here means being saved from something. And that something is defined as trouble. Therefore, there is something that these redeemed ones should be thankful about. The Psalmist is strongly encouraging them to be thankful to the LORD for redeeming them from a sorry situation.

Now the Psalmist probably had specific groups in mind, but in speaking to those groups he does something that is very helpful to us. He gives us four distinct examples of the type of redeemed people who can say, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” And more than that, he tells us exactly how those people were redeemed in the first place.

First, Ps 107:4-9 describes those who were exiled and wandering in the wilderness. Many of us, who have wandered and felt alone both in a physical and spiritual sense, can relate to this group of people. Notice Ps 107:6, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.” They did not work for their deliverance. They did not read their Bible more or get up earlier or work later or serve more or tithe more. They cried out to the LORD and he delivered them.

Psalm 107:10-16 describes another group of people. While in the first group nothing was said about how they ended up wandering and looking for a city, this second group is in much deeper trouble because of their own actions. “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High” (Ps 107:10-11). Their own rebellion got them into serious trouble. They rebelled against the words of God. That is serious. They also spurned the counsel of the Most High. That, too, is serious. What would you expect to happen to these people? Look at Ps 107:13, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” What did they do in order to be redeemed? They didn’t do anything, instead they cried out. What kind of God is this who redeems rebels when they cry out to him?

The third group were not rebels, but fools. “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction” (Ps 107:17). They were sinners, to be sure, but they aren’t described as rebels, just foolish. They foolishly sinned and reaped the consequences. So, what did this group do? “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (Ps 107:19-20). It is the second sentence that brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. He healed them and delivered them from their distress. Again, it was not their doing but their crying out that brought redemption from trouble.

Clearly there is a pattern here. The fourth group (Ps 107:23-32) is made up of business types in shipping who are caught in a storm that comes upon them from the hand of the LORD. They are frightened to death and react in an evil way, at least initially. Then they, too, cry out to the LORD, and he redeems them from his own storm. “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Ps 107:29).

The main point of this psalm is that these people are redeemed and therefore they should “give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” But clearly something else in this psalm is absolutely critical to our eternal existence. This psalm includes the greatest good news that you will ever hear. The LORD is a redeemer. In other words, he is in the business of saving people. He saves people who are wandering and looking for a home. He saves rebels who have spurned his word. He saves people who are fools and sin foolishly. He saves people who are living their lives and encounter the power of God in natural calamities. He saves people who cry out to him in faith.

If you are in trouble, if you are wandering or in prison or a fool or simply living life, cry out like the tax collector in Luke 18:13-14. Jesus said, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” Whether you are wandering or rebelling against the word of God, whether you are a fool or simply doing your job, I beg you to cry out to the only one who can redeem you. Then, when he delivers you and heals you and leads you by a straight way and brings you out of darkness, you too can say with the redeemed, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Friday, October 17, 2008

You Basically Ruin the Book for the Reader

My son's reason for not writing a book report longer than one page. Double-spaced.

Do You Worry About Nuclear Holocaust?

Apparently, there are still people who worry about nuclear holocaust and the extinction of mankind, including some prominent American politicians. Read Chuck Colson's article on Breakpoint.

I remember growing up during the height of the cold war, and not being too concerned about the Russians bombing the US with nukes. I figured if there was so much devastation that the human race is nearly wiped out, a lot more is going on than some crazy politicians pushing big red buttons. Read Revelation 9:15-19.

I mean, really, dying in a nuclear holocaust is not so bad if you trust in the sovereign Lord of the Universe. The problem is surviving one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God is Not Mocked

My oldest daughter came and sat on my bed last night, while I was sitting at my desk grading her latest essay. She saw some blog post on my screen about politics and asked me who I was going to vote for. I answered that I wasn’t happy about McCain, but I certainly wasn’t going to vote for Obama. This began a decent conversation with my 13-year old child who is learning how to think for herself. This is something that I desperately want to encourage in her, because I didn’t start thinking for myself, I mean really thinking, until much later in life. I want there to be a weight to her, not a lightness of being.

It seemed obvious to me that in her perception, Obama is the cooler choice. He is young, seemingly hip, and doesn’t look like McCain. However, she is not so light in her thinking that she doesn’t realize that real issues are at stake. While I was trying to read her, she asked me another question. (Kids want to understand. They are watching. They want to know what you believe and why you believe it. This was a good conversation.) “Why won’t you vote for Obama, Daddy?”

I could feel pressure around my eyes as I answered in a whisper, “Fifty million babies.” My eyes continued to well with tears as the thought of 50,000,000 dead babies filled my imagination. Never before have I felt the emotion over abortion that I did last night.

I have studied the biblical basis for a pro-life view. I have seen videos from that turned my stomach. I have thought about the inconceivable numbers of deaths since Roe v. Wade. But never before did I feel what I felt last night. I cried. My daughter watched me cry and I was happy about that.

But now, long after the conversation, I am trying to understand why I felt that emotion. Is it because Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion presidential candidate ever? Is it because he is the most extreme pro-abortion senator ever? No, I don’t think so.

Instead, I think my tears were a mingling of sorrow over a nation’s sin. I finally felt the weight of a nation’s sin. I have four wonderfully beautiful healthy wanted children. I have never been close to abortion. It has always been in the abstract. But a series of circumstances have brought some things to mind that are causing me to recognize that there is a lot more going on.

First was a recognition, again, of the utter depravity behind Israel’s sacrificing their children. Ezekiel describes how God’s people had turned from him and sacrificed their children to idols. Move your mouse over these texts: Ezekiel 16:20-22, Ezekiel 23:35-39. Judgment fell on the nation because of this kind of abomination. Sacrificing their own children was not the cause of judgment, but a clear indication of how far their hearts were from God prior to judgment. The people had broken the first commandment; they had other gods before God. And they were so devoted to those other gods that they sacrificed their children.

Second, it dawned on me that modern-day abortion is really no different than ancient near-east child sacrifice. The idols are different, but the idea is the same. Instead of Baals and Asheroth poles, we have convenience and poverty. We have iPods and angry parents. We have the desire to be responsible to nothing, and hindered by nothing.

If we are honest with ourselves, how can we not expect imminent judgment from the God of the Universe? This cannot, I dare say, will not go on forever. God is not mocked.

I am afraid. 2 Chronicles 19:7, Proverbs 14:26-27.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Christian Music?

Okay, I have been driven to write this post because of what is going on in our house and the recent posts of 1) a friend, and 2) an acquaintance.

We have become tired of the “contemporary Christian music” that is played on the local radio station. It is fluff and family friendly and all that other blah. Most of it doesn’t seem to line up with the real Christianity that I read about in the Bible or live every day. Where is the suffering? Where is joy in Christ despite the crush of sin and oppression?

We have attempted to survive by turning off the radio and listening to good music with deep Christian themes from the likes of Derek Webb, Sara Groves, and Sandra McCracken. But I have noticed that the current iTunes playlist has more Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the Wallflowers than Christian music.

So here are my questions: 1) where did the good Christian music go? 2) Which decade of secular music was better, 70s, 80s, or 90s? 3) Do you think I am a bad Christian because I actually stepped outside the box and have listened to secular music? 4) Why do most Christian radio stations play fluff instead of deep lyrics grounded in the Bible and theology?

I know that more than two people read this blog (the three of you know who you are), so I would love answers in the comments.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I mean, come on.

Okay, I am totally naive, know next to nothing about the financial crisis, and don't know who I am going to vote for, only who I am NOT going to vote for. It would seem then, that I shouldn't post anything here about what I don't know, right? It would seem. But, Doug Wilson makes so much sense, and I laugh out loud. How else can we survive these days if we can't laugh out loud?
When you are doing something crazy, and it causes problems, then stop it. If you are doing something big crazy, and it causes bigger problems, this should not be taken as an argument for doing something even bigger crazy. What is the way out of this mysterious crisis? Well stop doing what causes it. Or, to use the biblical word for it, we need a dose of repentance.

The bubble has burst, as every financial bubble in the history of the world has always done, and yet, somehow, all the cheerleaders of the bubblefication have not lost their credibility. They are still on the teevee, cheerleading for the latest rescue of the previous rescue of the first rescue. And someone like Ron Paul, who has been shown to be in the right about all this foolishness, talks sense for a few minutes. But everyone knows that that is not realistic. I mean, come on.

It reminds me of poor Jeremiah in Egypt. Everything he said about what idolatry would do to Israel came true, in agonizing detail. Every prediction, every denunciation, every tear -- every last one of them was shown to be, you know, true. And yet, once they were down in Egypt, up pop some wise johnnies who clearly saw that all this had happened because they hadn't worshipped the Queen of Heaven enough. Huh.
(HT: Douglas Wilson)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

That which is to be, already has been

I realize that there is a lot more going on in Ecclesiastes than meets the eye. Is there one writer or two? Is it Solomon or not?

Yet, there are nuggets of truth in Ecclesiastes that are beyond profound and require serious thought. So many of the arguments of our day wrestle around the doctrine of God's sovereignty. I have believed in God's absolute sovereignty for years now, and while I still wrestle with the ramifications of that belief, I find it very comforting.

Here is a nugget from Ecclesiastes that is worth our time pondering:

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15: I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Friction in Marriage Hinders Prayers

1Pet. 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

This verse is not saying something mystical about how your prayers are hindered; rather, it is eminently practical. For, it is hard to sit down at breakfast when you are angry with your wife and say thanksgiving to the God of the Universe for the food. And the kids are not naive enough to miss that dad is having a hard time praying when he is angry at mom.

The Stakes are Far Higher Than We Think

One of my pastors visited a couple in the hospital this last weekend whose adult son had been involved in a heavy equipment accident. Apparently a hydraulic hose broke and sprayed the man with hydraulic fluid that promptly caught fire, burning over 80% of his body. A co-worker pulled him from the flaming cab. His 15-year old daughter watched the entire incident and heard her father's screams of agony as his skin burned.

The pain is so intense, that the doctors have put him in an induced coma. His parents, who are believers, have temporarily moved from another state so that they can be near their son.

Recent surgery cut off the skin from his chest and grafted on skin from a cadaver. The prayer is that it will graft in an not get infected.

If you have read this far, I pray that you feel two things: 1) sorrow and pain for this man and his family that leads you to intercede for him in weeping prayer; and 2) a dawning recognition that if this kind of pain and suffering can happen on earth, how much more will the terror and anguish be in hell for those who do not repent?

Matt. 13:41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Legal Fathers Chase Them There

Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there.

Read the whole post.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I can't let the day slip away...

...without acknowledging that it is the first day of my favorite season...


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

What caption should be here?

Plus Nothing

The reason for this is that all men are separated from God because of their true moral guilt. God exists, God has a character, God is a holy God; and when men sin (and we must acknowledge we have sinned not only by mistake but by intention), they have true moral guilt before the God who exists. That guilt is not just the modern concept of guilt-feelings, a psychological guilty feeling in man. It is a true moral guilt before the infinite-personal, holy God. Only the finished, substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross as the Lamb of God--in history, space, and time--is enough to remove this. Our true guilt, that brazen heaven which stands between us and God, can be removed only upon the basis of the finished work of Christ plus nothing on our part. The Bible's whole emphasis is that there must be no humanistic note added at any point in the accepting of the gospel. It is the infinite value of the finished work of Christ, the second person of the Trinity, upon the cross plus nothing that is the sole basis for the removal of our guilt. When we thus come, believing God, the Bible says we are declared justified by God, the guilt is gone, and we are returned to fellowship with God--the very thing for which we were created in the first place.

Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, p. 3-4.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

From 35 minutes to 17 minutes

Woohoo! My commute just went from 35 minutes each way to 17 minutes each way. The I-35W bridge is finished and I drove over it this morning! I am sure that thousands of people drove over it before I did, including one Tom Steller, who drove over it when it opened at 5 AM. Nuts!

Read Piper on the bridge opening.

Monday, September 15, 2008

True for All Men Everywhere

The first point that we must make is that it is impossible even to begin living the Christian life, or to know anything of true spirituality, before one is a Christian. And the only way to become a Christian is neither by trying to live some sort of a Christian life nor by hoping for some sort of religious experience, but rather by accepting Christ as Savior. No matter how complicated, educated, or sophisticated we may be, or how simple we may be, we must all come the same way, insofar as becoming a Christian is concerned. As the kings of the earth and the mighty of the earth are born in exactly the same way, physically, as the simplest man, so the most intellectual person must become a Christian in exactly the same way as the simplest person. This is true for all men everywhere, through all space and all time. There are no exceptions. Jesus said a totally exclusive word: "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, p. 3.

Available Now: Is Christianity Good for the World?


Friday, September 12, 2008

I just received an email from a fellow student at The Bethlehem Institute:
Hey friends,

I wanted to let you all know that has been updated. There are quite a few changes, the highlights being the ESV is now available, the learn section is totally redone with the videos we shot, and it is a bit faster.

In Jesus,

Arcing is the Bible study method that John Piper uses when he studies the Bible and a tool that is taught at TBI. If you don't already know how to arc, I suggest that you check out Andy's site. This website is the best arcing tool in existence.

If you watch the videos in the Arcing 101 section, you can see yours truly describe some logical relationships. Woohoo.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

That'll do something to your little leftist narrative.

Some days, the seriousness of life makes me want to cry. At those times, and others, of course, a little laugh-out-loud satire is pleasant.
But in the meantime, we must not overlook the fact that she [Sarah Palin] presents an absolutely devastating challenge to the feminist narrative for women, and there are no mights involved. Here is a woman who (for the sake of principle) has refused to sacrifice those things which feminists insist (in principle) must be sacrificed so that women can reach their "full potential." As a result of refusing the central dogma of their feminism, she might well become the first woman president. That'll do something to your little leftist narrative. Feminism has never been about advancing the cause of women. This reveals, as few other things could, that it has been about advancing the cause of commie women.

Granting that Sarah Palin does not look like June Cleaver, she looks a lot less like Hillary or Gloria Steinem. And, despite the differences, I can imagine Sarah and June having a very pleasant lunch together. If she tried to take Hillary or Gloria out shopping (for motorcyles, say) and a spot of lunch afterwards, all I can envision is stoney silences and a lot of glaring . . . and not from Sarah, who would be chatting happily. Sarah Palin ruffles the hair of some conservatives, but they can always comb it again. Doug Phillips will be all right in a couple days. In contrast, when it comes to the vampirism of the feminist left, let's just call her Buffy. They won't be all right in a couple of days.

For the whole Douglas Wilson blog post, which is quite lengthy, click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Honest Enough to See the Logical Conclusion

You have to read this. Justin Taylor provides the closing paragraphs to an article by a feminist liberal woman named Camille Paglia. This woman has unashamedly admitted the logical end result of her worldview. The following is a quote to shock you:

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

Read Justin's article here.

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'm Supposed to do Something in Worship?

"Most denominations have done studies in worship and may even review it frequently; they have also produced books that set forth their worship and their hymns. This is as it should be, of course. But all worshippers need to discover for themselves what worship is all about and how to improve it, and this must come from the Bible itself. After all, our worship of God must continue to develop throughout life" (Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, p. 63n2, emphasis mine).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's Half-Past Twelve Somewhere

Acedia [uh-see-dee-uh] Laziness or indifference in religious matters.

A significant part of Norris' agenda is to distinguish acedia from depression: two intersecting sets that have some features in common but differ in significant ways. Here, she suggests, "an informed understanding of sin" helps. [S]he is concerned that the church long ago began to define sin primarily in terms of acts rather than something like Evagrius' "thoughts," which are part of the human condition and which we must identify before they become harmful actions and stifle the work of grace in our lives. Put more simply, Norris' "most basic definition of sin" is "to comprehend that something is wrong, and choose to do it anyway." The danger of a sin like acedia is that it can become "mortal"--that is, it can prevent God's grace from transforming our lives: "When we are convinced that we are beyond the reach of grace, acedia has done its work."

We urgently need such reminders amid the "restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair" of contemporary life, particularly in the context of a marriage such as the one that unfolds in this book. In a society where acedia results in relationships that are recycled more often than aluminum cans, Norris insists that what is most likely to maintain a marriage is not giddy romance, but discipline, martyrdom, and obedience (which, at its etymological root, refers to hearing): "The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. You may say the 'I do' of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, but it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married."

This post references the book review by Dennis Okholm. [I have no idea what the title of the review or this post means.] The book being reviewed is Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I Need to Explain That Last Quote

I need to explain that last quote, not necessarily for my two readers, but for myself. Why, indeed, would I post such a quote with all of its two-bit philosophical ramblings? Well, because if you read the entire book, you would get a feel for the person eliciting the quote. And the person who elicited the quote is a complex person who ultimately does what is right regardless of his desire to live. He is what I would call a hero. Yet, he is a flawed hero.

While it is common in most hero stories that the hero must stand against the face of evil, it is also common that the hero be a fractured character, a troubled man who fuzzes the line occasionally to bring about the greater good. Is this concept not central to the recent summer blockbuster The Dark Knight?

Corwin of Amber had just chased down a thief who had murdered a woman and taken her bracelets and rings. Corwin dispatched the murderer, retrieved the stolen items and then buried the woman. Once finished he thought the quote. In my mind his actions were simply retribution for Melkin’s evil deeds. Especially in a medieval setting, were his actions not appropriate?

For me, with years of reading hero stories under my belt, there is something right about the lone hero who fights evil and rides away alone into the sunset, the hero who sheds blood in order to keep blood from being shed. We love this man, don’t we? His story is everywhere. He has been played by Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, and Matt Damon. He is the lone cowboy, standing against the rustlers, shooting them dead, and then riding into the sunset. He is Aragorn as a Ranger, doing what is right, but in the shadows, protecting the weak with brutal, efficient violence.

I realize that all of the above really doesn’t matter to anyone reading this, unless they have read the chronicles of Corwin of Amber. But, there is one sentence in my previous quote-post that makes me think of a biblical character who also had a lot of blood on his hands. “Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.” I can picture King David saying this as he looked forward to the building of the temple and peace in Israel, riding out to battle with his Mighty Men.

Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands! There was blood on David’s hands, to be sure. David avenged more than one evil deed. David wanted to usher in the new kingdom of peace, but was kept from it. David wanted to build the temple. He dreamed of it, he designed it, and he gathered the materials for it. Yet, God did not let him build it because he had blood on his hands.

David was a man after God’s own heart. David wrote ballads and played the harp. David was a lover. And David killed people. David was a hero who was necessary for the kingdom of Israel. God rewarded him by promising that his son would sit on the throne forever. Yet, he was not allowed to build the temple.

I don’t know if he fully knew all that would happen when his reign was over; maybe he did. Even still, he still did what was necessary for the kingdom. “Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

I Shall Not Wash My Hands Nor Let Them Hang Useless

"I replaced her rings, her bracelets, her combs, before I closed the grave, and that was Lorraine. All that she had ever been or wanted to be had come to this, and that is the whole story of how we met and how we parted, Lorraine and I, in the land called Lorraine, and it is like onto my life, I guess, for a Prince of Amber is part and party to all the rottenness that is in the world, which is why whenever I do speak of my conscience, something else within me must answer, "Ha!" In the mirrors of the many judgments, my hands are the color of blood. I am a part of the evil which exists to oppose other evils. I destroy Melkins when I find them, and on that Great Day of which prophets speak but in which they do not truly believe, on that day when the world is completely cleansed of evil, then I, too, will go down into darkness, swallowing curses. Perhaps even sooner than that, I now judge. But whatever . . . Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless." - Corwin of Amber (The Guns of Avalon, The Chronicles of Amber, Vol. 1, pg 208-209).

Posting Quotes

I have seen it written (I just can't remember where - maybe here or here) that posting quotes from books you are reading without providing your own commentary is bad blog etiquette. However, from the numbers of comments this blog receives (the squirrel story has more comments than the rest of the site put together) I don't think I am running too big of a risk.

Why am I writing this? See the next post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Best Squirrel Story Ever

On Friday night, Wendy and I and two friends were driving through Elliot Park neighborhood in Minneapolis. We saw something moving across the road. I slowed down and looked carefully. A plastic cup, similar to a frappucino cup was moving across the road, pushed by a squirrel. Then we realized that the squirrel had its head stuck in the bubble lid.

It had to be hot in the cup, since it was about 85 degrees outside. The squirrel couldn't see very well, because the cup was still coated with whip cream and coffee or whatever was in the cup. I wonder if squirrels have bad breath. I bet he was wishing he had brushed his teeth that morning.

Jenny jumped out with her iPhone and took a picture. I was trying to figure out if I could save the squirrel without touching it or getting bit by it. It was moving slow enough that catching it was no problem, but they have sharp claws and it was still skittish. If I stepped on its tail and pulled the lid at the same time I might be able to save it, but it might whip around and bite me or something.

My flash decision was to simply grab the cup and yank as hard as I could, hoping the cup and lid would all come off at the same time. Without additional thought, I reached down, grabbed the cup and yanked. Squirrels are very light. There was almost no resistance at all. The squirrel went flying in the direction of my pull, but the cup stayed in my hand.

Then I realized that the cup stayed in my hand, but not the lid! By this time, the squirrel was bounding across the road and under the nearest car, clear plastic lid still stuck around its neck. It couldn't run that well, but it could now see and breath. At least I gave it a small chance to live when before it had none.

I have no idea what has happened to the squirrel. It may be able to eat, if it finds something, but I doubt that it can climb trees. It is probably easy prey for bigger urban dwellers.

Moral of the story: Don't litter! Be Green! If you don't it hurts the animals!

(Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

Numa! Numa!

I know that this has been seen over 18,000,000 times (as of right now), but it is still hilarious - and catchy too.

Piper on Abortion

(HT: The Bethlehem Institute)

Monday, August 25, 2008


I stumbled upon a church website near my home town the other day. Here is how they described their worship:
At Journey we believe that connecting with our Savior through corporate worship is essential to our spiritual walk. We strive to provide a themed service that revolves around the scripture presented each week; incorporating drama, movie clips, contemporary worship, secular songs and symbols - all to communicate the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was also pointed to a quote from John Owen by a guest blogger on Justin Taylor's blog:
It is an innate acknowledged principle that the soul of man will not keep up cheerfully unto the worship of God unless it has a discovery of a beauty and comeliness in it. Hence, when men had lost all spiritual sense and savor of the things of God, to supply the want that was in their own souls, they invented outwardly pompous and gorgeous ways of worship, in images, paintings, pictures, and I know not what carnal ornaments; which they have called "The beauties of holiness!" [Ps. 110:3]. Thus much, however, was discovered therein, that the mind of man must see a beauty, a desirableness in the things of God's worship, or it will not delight in it; aversation will prevail. Let, then, the soul labor to acquaint itself with the spiritual beauty of obedience, of communion with God, and of all duties of immediate approach to him, that it may be rifled with delight in them. (Overcoming Sin and Temptation, John Owen, eds. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, pg. 269-270)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sallow and Scrawny

Wendy and I (especially Wendy) are challenged by how to feed a family of six in a healthy way. In light of our desire to feed our family well and of the Olympics and the sallow and scrawny look of many of the athletes, I thought the following comments from Douglas Wilson quite appropriate.

One last comment. Suppose someone were to ask why I appear to be so against "healthy eating." First, I have no objection to faithful stewardship when it comes to food, and I do not believe that all foods are equal when it comes to a healthy diet. A steady diet of deep fat fried Twinkies is probably not the way to go. If your doctor tells you to knock off the coffee, Ho Ho's and cigars for breakfast, then go ahead and listen to him. But this is a spiritual issue only in terms of stewardship and general wisdom. It is not a case of spiritual defilement. People who react to an offered Dorito the way a rabbi would respond to a slice of pork roast are sinning. And secondly, as a practical observation, some of the sickliest people I know got that way through an obsessive interest in what they call healthy eating, but which obviously isn't. If they were to show up at Melzar's exam after ten days, he would slap them back on the Babylonian diet so fast it wouldn't be funny.

Daniel and his friends were willing to put it to the test. Let's take three groups of kids, and let's look closely at what they eat for ten days. One group watches television constantly, one hand on the remote and the other in a bag of Cheetos. The second group is languishing on a diet of tofu and rice. The last group is fed on what we might call a common sense American mom suburban diet -- Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, PB&J's for lunch, a couple of cookies after school, and a well-rounded dinner (meat, potatoes, veggies), with a little ice cream for dessert. On the eleventh day, let's have them all run around the block.

I'll put my kids up against your tofu and rice eating kids any day.

(HT: Douglas Wilson)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Loose Threads

One of the things that makes a story a good story is when all the loose threads are tied up in the end. A story that weaves an intricate tapestry but leaves many threads untied at the end is not satisfying. When all loose ends are tied up and everything is accounted for, then the tapestry (or the story) is that much more beautiful and satisfying.

If one considers all of history -- redemption history -- a story, then it seems reasonable to hope that all the threads of human history will be tied up nicely a the end. I believe that God, as the premier storyteller, will make sure that all the loose ends are tied up. In other words, the reason for cancer, wars, car accidents, theft, betrayal, tsunamis, hurricanes, plane crashes, crib death, drugs, and a million other sufferings will be beautifully explained and satisfying by the time we read the last page.

To live this life believing in anything else would lead me, at least, to despair.

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Centripetal Force on our Planet

I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov, and was struck by a sentence. Ivan, the atheist brother, is talking with Alyosha, the hero of the story who is a monk. He says, “The centripetal force on our planet is still fearfullly strong, Alyosha.” He is speaking in the context of his love for life despite “logic” which tells him there is no order to the universe. It is after this discourse that Ivan launches into the two most famous chapters of the book, “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor,” where he argues against God.

In my mind, one of the main jobs of the preacher is to counter-act the “centripetal force of this planet” by proclaiming a Jesus that has a stronger pull. If people don’t see a Jesus that has a greater pull on their wants, their desires, their souls, then the force of this world will ultimately draw them into the center. As I drove in to the office this morning my longing was to see Jesus more clearly, to delve into his words and actions and better understand him. I want to sit at the feet of Jesus and wrestle with both the tough and the tender, to see how his turns of a phrase, how his quotations of the OT and how his insight speaks clearly to me in a world of iPhones and skyscrapers and high gas prices. I want the gravitational pull of the son to overcome the centripetal force of this world!

Abortion is About God

A new curriculum will be available August 2008 from The Bethlehem Institute

Title: Abortion Is About God: Reframing a Moral Issue

Short Description: "Abortion Is About God: Reframing a Moral Issue" is a six-week Sunday School curriculum advancing the truth that the deepest evil of abortion is that it defies God¹s supremacy over life in the womb. The course will aim to provide a biblical and theological foundation for the pro-life cause. Moreover, the course will aim to bring a God-centered perspective to bear on this contested issue. In addition to asserting that abortion is fundamentally an offense to the glory of the Creator, the curriculum will celebrate the sovereignty of God over all of life, will lift up the good gifts of children and parenthood, and will proclaim the mercy freely offered to all through the gospel. Students will gain a deeper understanding of this issue by closely examining key biblical passages, answering provocative questions, and considering sermons and writings from the ministry of John Piper. It is our prayer that this course would be used by God to awaken the church afresh to the horror of abortion as a belittling of the glory of God and an assault on those made in His image.

About the curriculum: New TBI Curriculum - Abortion Is About God New TBI Curriculum - Abortion Is About God

Annotated Table of Contents: CURRICULUM: Abortion is About God - TOC CURRICULUM: Abortion is About God - TOC

Evolution and Entropy

Sunday morning, on our way to church, we drove down Highway 96 and I contemplated the median. The curbed median had been landscaped, with trees and flowers and shrubbery and barkdust. The flowers were in bloom, reds, purples, yellows and oranges. And weeds. The weeds were clearly moving in on the flowers and attempting to assert their control over the median.

A few more hundred feet down the road and a right turn on to Highway 10. We were passing an older military base that had been shut down years before, I suppose during the Clinton era. The driveway and parking lot were cracked and broken, with weeds growing up there, too. The windows were dirty and broken. Open holes in glass staring back at me. The brick walls of the building looked worn out and in need of a cleaning.

What struck me is how normal it is for things like medians and old buildings to go from pristine and beautiful to cracked, broken down, and old. And it doesn’t take very long for this to happen either. If we leave something in a box for twenty years, there is no guarantee that it will work just right when we pull it back out again.

If it is so normal for all things around us to move from order to chaos, or from good shape to worse shape, why would we imagine that one or two cell organisms would eventually become human beings? Does adding a million years to the process help?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Help me, O Lord!

The first eleven verses of Psalm 74 are a cry out to the Lord for help. The “enemy” of the Lord, the Lord’s “foes” are destroying the meeting places of God. They are breaking down the carved wood, they are setting the sanctuary on fire. In the beginning of this psalm, Asaph sees this as God’s anger toward his people. He attributes the suffering of God’s people at the hand of the Lord’s enemies as the Lord’s anger at his people, “O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?” This is a pleading cry, not an angry accusation. Asaph understands that God is ultimately sovereign over the enemies.

There is an interesting word at the beginning of verse 12. In the ESV and NASB the word is “Yet.” In the Hebrew it is a waw used in a concessive manner. Despite the fact that God is angry toward us, nevertheless, “God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

This is an intriguing response to the situation that the people of God were in. Asaph and the people of God are suffering. They are being put down by God’s foes and enemies. They are crying out to God for help, for defense, for deliverance. Yet in the midst of this horror, Asaph recognizes, remembers, believes, holds-on to the fact that God is making salvation or working salvation from ancient times in the land. God is doing something bigger in the midst of the terror. God is working salvation in the land, despite the fact that everyone is at a loss. God is doing something deeper than what Asaph and people see. He is working salvation.

Asaph then spends several verses (13-17) extolling the sovereignty of God over the earth, clearly describing again the power of God over all things, which is the basis of his belief in verse 12. Then, from v. 18 to the end of the psalm Asaph returns to his pleas for salvation from God. Verses 12-17 are the ground for Asaph’s pleas to God for deliverance both in the beginning and in the end of the Psalm. Without that middle section, Asaph has no real basis for crying out to God. It is the fact that God is sovereign over everything - the sea, the sea monsters, the springs and brooks, the day, the night, the stars, the sun, the boundaries of the earth and its seasons - that enables Asaph to confidently cry out to the Lord for help.

O that I would believe and trust in the sovereignty of God the way that Asaph did. O that I would cry out to my God, my king who is ancient of days, with the sheer confidence in his sovereignty for his deliverance of me from my troubles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

O Lord, Do Not Delay!

There are some big decisions going on in our lives right now: what job should we move towards (there are several options), should we visit Kentucky in April, what will our future be, am I called to teach in a college or preach in a church or how do I do both, and can I get Wendy a new camera? Some of these are big, and some are small, but all of them feel weighty when we are trying to live for the Lord and be holy with our lives. TBI needs about $2M in the next month or so to construct out the building we have been given and launch a bigger vision. That is big. Is it inappropriate to ask the Lord to be quick with his decisions?

Psalm 70 speaks to this. Verse 1 says, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!" Now, one might argue that David is speaking about deliverance from his enemies. That is true, yet do we not all have enemies of one form or another? (See comments in the last post.) What was the biggest difficulty in David’s life that he cried out to God about? It was his enemies. David cried out about his front burner issues, and I think that we should also cry out to God about our front burner issues. Just because we are not being sought by enemies “who desire our hurt” (Ps 70:2), does not mean that we can not cry out to God about our financial woes, our career woes, our family woes. We can and should cry out to God in all these things.

And, if we take David as our example, we can also beg God to be quick about it. It is not necessarily disrespectful to God to ask him to hurry, as long as our heart is not angry or presumptuous. Instead, like David, we should be poor and needy. David wrote, “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay! (Ps 70:5).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enemies and Life Struggles

After I finished thinking about God hearing us, I thought about other things in the Bible that could be comparable. Specifically I thought about how David wrote Psalms about getting relief from his enemies. If stars (see previous entry) can be compared to people, then certainly enemies can be compared to various life struggles and battles. In other words, the stress of getting a project at work completed is no less mundane than protection for enemies seeking our life. Not that enemies are mundane, but David’s work week and our work week are similar in that we both trudge off to do battle with something.

Then I read Psalm 55 in my quiet time after I got to work. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of my enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, an din anger they bear a grudge against me” (Ps 55:1-3).

We can bring our mundane troubles with curriculum or networks or people or studies to God in the same way as David cried out to God about his enemies. This is really basic, but this morning it seemed very profound to me.

Stars and Prayer

I have been stressed at work lately, and this morning as I drove in I attempted to pray. As I looked at the masses of people in cars around me, I wondered how could God possibly hear me. Why would he hear me? I am so small, so insignificant in relation to the rest of the world and all that is going on. There are seven million people in the greater Twin Cities area. There are six plus billion people in the world. There are governments, presidents, ambassadors, rebels, and corporate CEOs. How and why could or would he possibly listen to me as I drive in to work on I-35W in Minneapolis, MN?

Then a text from Isaiah 40 came to mind. "To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing" (Isa 40:25-26).

There are hundreds of millions of galaxies in our universe and there are likely hundreds of millions of universes. That means there are billions of stars. Stars that all have a name. Stars that all emit light in various ranges of the spectrum. Stars that emit various radio and magnetic and electric and light waves that create a symphony to those that have ears to hear and eyes to see. Who has those eyes to see and ears to hear? Who knows them all by name?

The God of the Bible. And if he knows all those stars, who have names and are not missing, then I can be confident he hears my prayers.

Father God, please strengthen my faith in you today. Grant me eyes to see and ears to hear your wondrous works. Amen.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

John 10:1-21

Click below to listen to a recent lesson I taught on John 10:1-21. There has been a lot of problems with audio lately, as the first ten minutes of this teaching did not get recorded. The audio picks up ten minutes in, after a review of John 9:1-5, at 9:6.

Would We Recognize a Good Shepherd if We Saw One?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Emerging or Emergent?

This is the best and shortest description of what it means to be emerging vs. emergent that I know of. If you care about the church, and recognize that there is a rift between traditional church and many so-called post-moderns, then this is a helpful read.

Would the Real Emerger Please Stand Up?

(HT: Reclaiming the Mind Ministries)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I and the Father are One

I had the privilege of preaching at Oakridge Community Church in Stillwater, MN last Sunday. Here is the audio for the sermon titled I and the Father are One.

Please note that the last three minutes of the sermon were lost. As it is now, it ends okay, but the final concluding thought and prayer were not recorded for some reason.

UPDATE: The file has been fixed and the entire sermon is now available.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Take the Puritan Reading Challenge

I read about this from Justin Taylor's blog, Between Two Worlds, and I thought it was definitely worth reproducing here. To find the main Puritan Reading Challenge click on the button below.

Happy Reading!

(HT: Between Two Worlds)