Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ray Ortlund's thoughts going into 2009

Ray Ortlund:

Going into this new year of grace 2009, I am thankful for four things and concerned about four things.


1. The gospel is being rediscovered and rejoiced over and ransacked in a fresh way, as evidenced by Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, etc. God seems to be creating new conditions for revival in the future. I hope I see some of it in my lifetime.

2. The rising generation, now in their 20s and 30s, are both theologically-minded and emotionally-intense toward the Lord. This is a powerful mix. If they will stay focused, we're in for some good days. Future buffetings will test us, and we are all weak. But the race of Hebrews 12:1-2 is always runnable, if we will keep our eyes on Jesus.

3. The age of parachurch usurpation seems to be ending, and the rightful, biblical dignity and authority of the church are being re-asserted. Since the church is where God locates his power (Ephesians 3:20-21), again, it looks to me like the preconditions of revival.

4. The Bible is the focus of renewed fascination and serious study. I see the success of the ESV Study Bible as one evidence here. Pragmatism is less acceptable as a form of validation, and biblical authority is increasingly required. This is the Lord Jesus himself touching us with his royal scepter, asserting his authority, for his greater glory and our greater power.


1. Too many churches remain uninvolved in and even unaware of the new things God is doing. They seem stuck in old patterns of dysfunction. Will they be left behind and lost to tragic inconsequentiality?

2. A tsunami of sin has been slamming us for years now, especially through the internet and increasingly filthy "entertainment." When will we get sick to our stomachs, sick of ourselves, sick enough to cry out to God for the massive cleansing only he can give? We tolerate sins that put our Savior on the cross. When will we become indignant enough to change?

3. Even in churches and movements that God is blessing, still, prayer can appear to be perfunctory at times. What is our confidence -- our cool personalities, or the power of the Holy Spirit in our weakness?

4. My generation and above has most of the money. What are we doing with it? Padding our comfortable lives, or plowing it into the cause of Christ? Lazy self-indulgence is a huge temptation for older people. But the next decade can be the greatest season of our entire lives, if we will invest our historically unprecedented wealth in the rising generations of Christ's soldiers.

Atheist declares Africa truly needs God

I've sen this article several different places and thought it was worth sharing here. It's basically about a British man seeing the real and radical impact that the gospel brings to people in Malawi, above and beyond what impact secular NGOs have.
"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."

Best Concerts I Saw in 2008

4. Red Mountain Music - March 29 @ Christ Community Church, Athens, GA
If you've been around my blog for a while, you'll know that this was a treat for me. They're so good at bringing old hymns alive.

3. Coldplay - November 11 @ Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Not quite as good as the year before, but still pretty entertaining

2. John Mayer - August 29 @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Alpharetta, GA
This was the first time I had seen him in many years. It was a treat to see a guy that used to be so good at playing small acoustic shows at Eddie's Attic and the 40 Watt be able to rock it out on the big stage. He is sick on the guitar, his lyrics are incredibly thoughtful, and his melodies are captivating.

1. Radiohead - May 8 @ Lakewood Ampitheatre, Atlanta, GA
Great band, great lights, great company, and great seats. All because of our great story. This show made me a Radiohead fan.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Blessed Rest of Self-Forgetfulness

The most life-changing message I have ever heard is a sermon entitled "The blessed rest of self-forgetfulness" by Tim Keller (preached 2/24/02). I listened to it for the first time on the way to Clearwater Beach, Florida in May of 2004. It was a timely message because I was about to engage in a role where I felt totally inadequate and where a lot of anxiety was to come. However, God delivered me in a really cool way, I think mainly by helping begin to live in this self-forgetful way. I listened to that sermon several times over that summer and it has been the my chief prayer for my sanctification since then.

Keller recently wrote an article in Christianity Today about this subject of gospel humility and self-forgetfulness. It's a great summary of the sermon he gave several years ago. Here's a couple of paragraphs:
"Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less, as C. S. Lewis so memorably said. It is to be no longer always noticing yourself and how you are doing and how you are being treated. It is 'blessed self-forgetfulness.'

Humility is a byproduct of belief in the gospel of Christ. In the gospel, we have a confidence not based in our performance but in the love of God in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24). This frees us from having to always be looking at ourselves. Our sin was so great, nothing less than the death of Jesus could save us. He had to die for us. But his love for us was so great, Jesus was glad to die for us."
Read the whole thing

(HT:Justin Taylor)

Best Books I Read in 2008

Out of the 13 books I read, here are my top 5:

5. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
4. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
3. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Best Movies I Saw in 2008

Thinking back over the year, there really were some great movies that came out. A few of these actually came out in 2007, but I didn't get around to seeing them until this year. With the exception of Iron Man, all these movies prompted me to consider certain philosophical or existential questions. And in my opinion, the movies that do this are the best kind of movies.

10. Juno
9. The Visitor
8. Gone Baby Gone
7. Bella
6. Wall-E
5. Iron Man
4. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
3. Slumdog Millionaire
2. There Will Be Blood
1. The Dark Knight

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

You should go see this movie. It's good on so many levels.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

W. likes to read

"There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them."
Karl Rove gives some insight into what the president reads.

(HT:Justin Taylor)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Following in the steps of Christ

I just finished reading The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. I recommend it as a great resource to understand why spiritual disciplines exist and the power that comes through them. At the end of the book, Willard put in an article that he wrote for Christianity Today back in 1980. I thought the last paragraph of the article was a good summary of what the book conveys:
“Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world. Any other offer fails to do justice to the drama of human redemption, deprives the hearer of life’s greatest opportunity, and abandons this present life to the evil powers of the age. The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane. It is to see, in Helmut Thielicke’s words, that ‘The Christian stands, not under the dictatorship of a legalistic ‘You ought,’ but in the magnetic field of Christian freedom, under the empowering of the ‘You may.’”

Who was Saint Nick?

The Resurgence blog has a great post to answer this question.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are we wrong about our economic principles?

Adbusters has a recent article constrasting two different views of the economy, growth vs. steady-state. Having not ever taken an economics class, I found the article pretty interesting. Most of the time I figure that the way things are running now must be the best, if not the only way to do things. As usual, Adbusters helps me take a look outside my 21st Century Western bias:
"The most important change in recent times has been the enormous growth of one subsystem of the Earth, namely the economy, relative to the total system, the ecosphere. This huge shift from an 'empty' to a 'full' world is truly 'something new under the sun,' as historian J. R. McNeil calls it in his book of that title. The closer the economy approaches the scale of the whole Earth, the more it will have to conform to the physical behavior mode of the Earth. That behavior mode is a steady state – a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth. Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff). The remaining natural world is no longer able to provide the sources and sinks for the metabolic throughput necessary to sustain the existing oversized economy – much less a growing one. Economists have focused too much on the economy’s circulatory system and have neglected to study its digestive tract. Throughput growth means pushing more of the same food through an ever larger digestive tract; development means eating better food and digesting it more thoroughly. Clearly the economy must conform to the rules of a steady state – seek qualitative development, but stop aggregate quantitative growth. GDP increase conflates these two very different things.

We have lived for 200 years in a growth economy. That makes it hard to imagine what a steady-state economy (SSE) would be like, even though for most of our history mankind has lived in an economy in which annual growth has been negligible. Some think an SSE would mean freezing in the dark under communist tyranny. Some say that huge improvements in technology (energy efficiency, recycling) are so easy that it will make the adjustment both profitable and fun."
The steady-state economy also seems to be the answer to better helper poorer countries:
"For poor countries GDP growth still increases welfare, at least if reasonably distributed. The question is, what is the best thing for rich countries to do to help poor countries? The World Bank’s answer is that the rich should continue to grow as rapidly as possible to provide markets for the poor and to accumulate capital to invest in poor countries. The steady state answer is that the rich should reduce their throughput growth to free up resources and ecological space for use by the poor, while focusing their domestic efforts on development, technical and social improvements, that can be freely shared with poor countries."
Read the whole thing

Saturday, December 20, 2008

To be cool or to be biblical

Al Mohler recently commented on Obama choosing Rick Warren to do his inaugural invocation. He points out an interesting dilemma that churches across the nation will soon deal with: to be cool or to be biblical.
"We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn 'uncool' in an instant, at least in many circles.

I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.

Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.

Many in the 'emerging' and 'Emergent church' movements also state their intention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?

Rick Warren has just found himself in the midst of a whirlwind. We must pray that God will give him wisdom as he decides what to do -- and what to say -- as he stands in this whirlwind. But every evangelical Christian should watch this carefully, for the controversy over Rick Warren will not stop with the pastor from Saddleback. This whirlwind is coming for you and for your church. At some point, the cost of being "cool" will be the abandonment of biblical Christianity. We had better decide well in advance that this is a cost far too high to pay."
Read the whole thing

Friday, December 19, 2008

We need each other to really know one another and to really know God

As I was listening to Tim Keller a couple of days ago, he pointed out this amazing quote regarding community. It comes from C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves. For context, it's important to point out that Lewis is referring to community within the Inklings, a small group of men who met weekly for almost 20 years. Lewis's closest friends seemed to be in this group, and Charles and Ronald were both members (see Arnold's comment for more insight).
"In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity...Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald...we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious 'nearness by resemblance' to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' to one another. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have."

An atheist's perspective on evangelism

This is pretty powerful stuff from the atheist Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller):
"“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’…How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”"

(HT:Ray Ortlund)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beholding Is Becoming

Want to be more like Christ?

It's just a matter of seeing Him:
"And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." - 2. Cor. 3:18
"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, becuase we shall see him as he is." - 1 John 3:2

Friday, December 12, 2008

Using Facebook Redemptively

Justin Buzzard has written about using discernment with using social sites online, namely Facebook. He gives some advice on how not to use Facebook. Here are just a few:
1. Don’t use status updates to complain. For many, complaining has become a trend on Facebook. With their status updates, many people broadcast consistent grumbles, like: “Joe is bored,” “Joe can’t wait to leave his stupid job,” or “Joe is exhausted.” By all means, be real, be honest and authentic, but beware of the culture of complaint.

2. Don’t measure your worth/identity by the number of your Facebook friends and interactions. Facebook measurements are the opposite of gospel measurements. Facebook tells you that the more Facebook friends and interactions you have, the more important, loved, and accepted you are. The gospel tells sinners an opposite message: no matter how lonely, unpopular, or unnoticed you might feel, in Jesus you are more loved, accepted, and noticed than you can imagine.

3. Don’t value forming Facebook (virtual) friendships more than real world friendships.

4. Don’t diminish your face-to-face time with people to check what’s going on in your Facebook world. If you’ve ever been out to dinner with friends and found yourself anxious to pull away and check out what’s happening on Facebook, you know what I’m talking about.

5. Don’t be someone online you’d never be in person. Let Facebook reflect the real you, not some pseudo-personality that emerges when you’re alone with your computer.

9. Don’t let Facebook cause you to think about yourself more than you already do. You were created to look outside yourself toward God, other people, and the wonder-filled world he has made for you to enjoy and cultivate.
And then he gives some advice on how to use Facebook redemptively:
1. Use Facebook to get back in touch with far-away friends, showing them how Jesus has changed you. As Facebook has reconnected me with friends from my past, a number have been struck by how much I’ve changed. High school friends from Sacramento regularly express shock at learning that I’m a pastor.

2. Use Facebook as an extension of face-to-face relationships and to enhance time with people. Get to know people and love and care for them better when you’re with them because, through Facebook, you know more about who they are and what’s going on in their lives.

3. Use Facebook to take the focus off of yourself. Facebook can actually help you get outside of yourself and your problems. Next time you login, use the time to focus on creatively listening to, loving, and encouraging others. Approach Facebook thinking about what you can give.

4. Use Facebook to sharpen and discipline what you do with your time. Facebook status updates can serve as a form of built-in accountability. Just knowing that my Facebook community can read my updates provides additional motivation to stay on task and actually do what I say I’m doing.

5. Use Facebook to quickly announce and facilitate great face-to-face gatherings. Instead of taking 45 minutes to call 10 people to come over for a spontaneous evening, use Facebook.

6. Use Facebook to influence other people for Jesus. Create a new culture with your status updates. Use them to love, encourage, teach, and challenge people.
(HT:Justin Taylor)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Driscoll on silence

Apparently Mark Driscoll likes my posts on spiritual disciplines and is making posts of his own. He just recently wrote a one on silence. Here are the benefits that he says Scripture says about this discipline:
hearing from God (1 Kings 19:11–13)
waiting patiently for the Lord to act (Lamentations 3:25–28)
worshiping God (Habakkuk 2:20)
knowing God better (Psalm 46:10)
praying effectively (Luke 5:16)
And here's his conclusion:
"My prayer is that those reading this who, like me, are guilty of noise addiction can also experience the regular gift of silence because that is often where God is waiting for us. There was silence before God spoke the world into existence, and silence for forty days before Jesus began His public ministry, which may indicate that silence is what allows us to speak as God intends."
Read the whole thing

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza on the Christian worldview

Dinesh D'Souza recently gave a speech in Colorado Springs that confronts the idea held by many, including the new atheists, that Christianity should be eradicated from our society. Dinesh argues that many people take for granted several fundamental ideas that would evaporate without the Christian worldview. He narrows in on the idea of fredom, mentioning slavery and women's suffrage, and the worth of the human individual. He concludes this way:
"In sum, the eradication of Christianity—and of organized religion in general—would also mean the gradual extinction of the principles of human dignity. Consider human equality. Why do we hold to it? The Christian idea of equality in God’s eyes is undeniably largely responsible. The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief."
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


The second discipline of abstinence that Willard talks about in The Spirit of the Disciplines is silence. He says this about it:
"silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing upon the stark realities of our life. It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God. And in that quiet, what if there turns out to be very little to ‘just us and God’? Think what it says about the inward emptiness of our lives if we must always turn on the tape player or radio to make sure something is happening around us."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Now you can have plans for New Year's Eve Eve

These guys are so funny. Go get your tickets now. Evan McHugh and Garrett Moore at Eddie's Attic, December 30th.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

God is all about Himself

In explaining why God is not a megalomaniac in demanding to be worshipped to audience in Rhode Island last month, John Piper provides this quiz to help people understand how self-exalting God really is:
Q 1: What is the chief end of God?
A: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying his glory forever.

Q 2: Who is the most God-centered person in the universe?
A: God.

Q 3: Who is uppermost in God’s affections?
A: God.

Q 4: Is God an idolater?
A: No. He has no other gods before him.

Q 5: What is God’s chief jealousy?
A: God’s chief jealousy is to be known, admired, trusted, enjoyed, and obeyed above all others.

Q 6: Do you feel most loved by God because he makes much of you, or because he frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?

Total Depravity

Travis Carden posts a great compilation of Scripture supporting the doctrine of Total Depravity. He says:
"The doctrine of total depravity (or total inability) says that all men, as a consequence of the Fall, are born morally corrupt, enslaved to sin, at enmity with God, and unable to please Him or even of themselves to turn to Christ for salvation."
For more resources on this doctrine, go here.

(HT:Tim Challies)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Are we here by accident?

Ray Ortlund:

Questioner: Materialists and some astronomers suggest that the solar planetary system and life as we know it was brought about by an accidental stellar collision. What is the Christian view of this theory?

Lewis: If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents -- the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else's. But if their thoughts -- i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy -- are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents.

C. S. Lewis, "Answers to Questions on Christianity," in God in the Dock, pages 52-53.

Rewriting History

Piper has an interesting post on writing religion out of history. He writes about the new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. and how it omits in mention of God, despite the religious roots of our country.

Chocolate and Cheese Party

December 13th. Come check it out.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Solitude brings freedom

I'm still reading The Spirit of the Disciplines right now, by Dallas Willard. I'm about 2/3rds of the way in, and he's just now getting to what the disciplines of the spiritual life are. He breaks them up into disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement. The first of the disciplines of abstinence is solitude. He believes solitude to have "primacy and priority among the disciplines." He points out how it frees us to connect again with the reality of God's rule in the world:
"The normal course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God. Nothing but solitude can allow the development of a freedom from the ingrained behaviors that hinder our integration into God's order."
And as painful as it may be, solitude also allows us to get a healthy account of ourselves, in all our messiness. Solitude frees us to be authentic. He quotes Louis Bouyer as saying this:
"Solitude...serves to crack open and burst apart the shell of our superficial securities. It opens out to us the unknown abyss that we all carry within us...[and] discloses the fact that these abysses are haunted"
It also brings freedom to have meaningful conversation:
"Henry David Thoreau saw how even our secular existence withers from lack of a hidden life. Conversation degenerates into mere gossip and those we meet can only talk of what they heard from someone else. The only difference between us and our neighbor is that he has seen the news and we have not."
Go and be free.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I still need Africa more than Africa needs me

I blogged last Monday about why I need Africa more than Africa needs me. The following are some thoughts from Mocha Club, the organization that is behind this campaign.
"When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in the people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day. [read more]"
Also, go check out this video.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Walmart employee trampled to death on Black Friday

Robert made me aware of this sad article. It's sad to see the grip that saving a few bucks has on many of us, turning man into something that resembles a beast.

"Those who desire to get rich...plunge people into ruin and destruction."

Become a wise consumer of culture

Josh Jackson, editor of Paste Magazine, recently wrote a short blurb on the search in our lives among the countless entertainment options.
"I think I may have a problem...With nearly every CD released coming through my office, most every film I want to see already in my Netflix queue and more magazine subscriptions than would be humanly possible to read, I’m never at a loss for some form of entertainment to fill the gaps in life. Even when I’m standing in line at the back, I’ve got a phone in my pocket with access to free games, YouTube videos and the rest of that wonderful composite of all the knowledge of recorded human history: the Internet. I’m in danger of, as Neil Postman put it, amusing myself to death.

It’s been 47 years and billions of entertainment options since that great ‘malaise’ Binx Bolling, in Walker’s Percy’s The Moviegoer, found more meaning and purpose in his trips to the cinema than in his own life. To counter that, he became enamored with the search--’To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.’ I like to think I’m on that search, and I find that books like The Moviegoer, as well as music, film, magazines--and even TV and video games--can illuminate the path ahead. But only if I’m vigilant about actually living, and separating the wheat from the chaff when I do stop to enjoy a piece of our culture.

...At Paste, we see it as our job to help you discover entertainment options pertinent to your search--not to serve as a replacement for your own story. I believe we were put on this earth to help redeem it. The best music, film and culture will do you no good if you’re buried under it. Become a wise consumer of culture. Or better yet, become a creator of it."
I've blogged before on why you check out Paste Magazine. Do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Audience of One

Roy spoke Sunday about community. He said that community a sense of belonging and that it's crucial that we first make sure we're living before God, our Audience of One. If we don't belong to Him first and foremost, our relationships become strained because we'll never be completely satisfied with the community we have. We'll always seek to gain maximum approval from others. And we'll always seek to find the "perfect" community in which there are no problems because everyone is all about us. He even cited Adam and Eve's perfect community and how they weren't ultimately satisfied with it. They wanted to be God. And in a sense, we act the same way we don't allow ourselves to live solely before and belong to the Audience of One.

Tim Challies also recently blogged about this idea here. He mentions it regarding leadership and takes a look at Os Guinness's book, The Call. He points out really interesting stories of celebrities who go to extreme measures to make sure they are praised by others. He says this of the book:
"In The Call, Guinness discusses narcissism in the context of audience. Christians are to be motivated to serve and to please an audience of One. We are to called to seek the pleasure of God."
I appreciate Roy and Tim discussing this idea. For me, this concept of living before an Audience of One has been my chief aim over the last five years. Back in 2003, in the midst of struggling with anxiety that was rooted in self-absorption, God revealed to me in various ways how the key to freedom was living before Him alone. I think there were two key books that I read that year that helped me start moving towards this kind of freedom. The first was In the Shadow of the Almighty which is mainly journals and letters penned by Jim Elliot. In the book, he has a chapter entitled "AUG" or Approved Unto God. To see him focus his efforts there, as a student at Wheaton, was a powerful thing for me to see.

The second book is Humility by Andrew Murray. In it, I began to discover the true freedom of getting outside of myself and being caught up with who I was in Christ. The quote that has had the MOST profound impact on me outside the Bible comes from this book. It says:
"It is indeed blessed-the deep happiness of heaven-to be so free from self that whatver is said about us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.""
That is what I seek.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I need Africa more than Africa needs me

I was asked by Mocha Club to write about the concept of why ‘I need Africa more than Africa needs me.’ Mocha Club is a community-based website where members can start a team and invite friends to join them in giving $7 a month – the cost of 2 mochas – to support a project in Africa. Mocha Club's vision is to provide a way for people who don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa.

When I think about that statement, it's a little difficult at first. I'm an American. I'm a guy. I have a job and a place to live and really everything else I need...right? Well, as I think about it more, I realize I'm still lacking something. I'm lacking people around me that are different enough from me to help me get outside of myself. I live in the north Atlanta suburbs and nearly everyone I am surrounded by is pretty much just like me. We're mostly all white. We all rank among the wealthiest 5% of the world. We all have been influenced by the consumeristic, individualistic, and materialistic mindset of 21st century America. We are taught to be self-sustaining. But...

I need Africa more than Africa needs me because I need to see the world as God really created it. He created it in diversity, and He desires unity in that diversity. The people and culture of Africa are vitally important for helping us realize that the kingdom of God is not just about a people and a culture just like us. God made every person on this planet in His image and we need Africa to see more of who God really is.

There are huge atrocities going on in Africa. Children are being taken captive and used as soldiers, water availability and purity is a huge problem, AIDS continues to sweep across the continent; these just to name a few. And God intends for us not to just pity them, but to partner with them in bringing His kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section or even blog about it yourself. Join in the worthwhile cause of recasting the damaging images that force pity over partnership. Come back Dec 1st to see what Mocha Club is doing about reforming that image.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Turmoil in DR Congo

The Big Picture, over at, has done a photo journalism piece on the turmoil going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The pictures are very sobering.

Also, here's a timeline of key events in DR Congo.

Thy righteousness is in heaven

Because of Clay's encouragement, I recently relistened to John Piper's biography of John Bunyan. The sermon is full of rich insight in the areas of suffering, God's sovereignty, and Bible memory, but the most significant thought for me in the last couple days came from Bunyan's conversion experience. He says this:
"One day as I was passing into the field...this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [=lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, 'The same yesterday, today, and forever.' Heb. 13:8."
What a wonderful thought that is. When we sin overtakes us and wants to condemn us, all we have to do is look to Christ and claim His perfect righteousness as ours.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The gift of spiritual handicaps

Have you ever had something in your life that you felt like God should free you from, because it's just causing you pain and frustration? I have. Reading Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12 brings comfort that God is ultimately loving me when he gives me these "thorns in the flesh," because I have to look outside my self and depend on Him. This comes from the Message:
"...I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

'My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.'

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. "

Obama's faith

An interview from 2004 was recently published where Barack Obama sat down with Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani to talk about his faith. In the interview, Obama answers questions regarding his thoughts on sin, heaven , Bible study, prayer, and Jesus. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unhappy people watch more TV

An extensive new research study has found that unhappy people watch more TV while those consider themselves happy spend more time reading and socializing...

'TV is not judgmental nor difficult, so people with few social skills or resources for other activities can engage in it,' says the study. 'Furthermore, chronic unhappiness can be socially and personally debilitating and can interfere with work and most social and personal activities, but even the unhappiest people can click a remote and be passively entertained by a TV. In other words, the causal order is reversed for people who watch television; unhappiness leads to television viewing.'
Read the whole thing

(HT:Tim Challies)

Creation is pointing to its Maker

Roy Keely:
The Sages, it is often said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble with our sages is not that they cannot see the answer, it is that they cannot even see the riddle. -GK Chesterton

Everyday I wake up and that should be enough to convince me, yet still I wonder. I then imagine a world where the Sun only rose once. A world with but one lily, with but one wave, with but one instance of love . Would not every instance of these rarities be considered a miracle in of themselves? How have the givens been forgotten as the gifts, the axioms which make all things possible.

The Dazzlingly obvious conclusion now arose in my mind: in the whole history of the universe the laws of Nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. -CS Lewis

Jesus, our true elder brother

I recently listened to a sermon entitled "Prodigal Sons" by Tim Keller. In the sermon, Keller shows how the story in Luke 15 is really about both brothers, the elder and the younger. Whether it's our worldly hedonism or it's our religious self-reliance, both lifestyles are in need of God's grace.

At the end of the sermon, Keller sets up a beautiful picture of Christ being our true elder brother.
"The true elder brother would have seen the agony of the Father and said "Father, I'm going to go out and look for my brother. And if he has ruined himself and squandered his inheritance, I'll bring him home at my own expense.' That would have been a true elder brother. Poor kid, he doesn't have a true elder brother...but we do. Jesus Christ gives us a bad elder brother so we'll long for the right one. We don't just need an elder brother to go out in to the next town to find us, we need someone to come from heaven to earth. We don't need an elder brother who brings us in to God's family just at the cost of wallet, but at the cost of his life. Because on the cross, Jesus Christ was stripped naked so that we could be clothed in the robe of honor that we don't deserve. On the cross, Jesus called 'My God, My God', the only time he never called Him Father, because at that moment He was not being treated as a Son so you and I could be. There He paid the debt that deep down we all know we owe. And because everything He had--He had everything the Father had, but He shares it with us and brings us home at enormous expense to Himself. And when you see that, to the degree you see that, it will change the absolute motivation, your whole approach towards God. And you won't be into self-discovery or moral conformity, you'll be a Christian."
Go here to check out more about Tim Keller and get some free sermons. The "Prodigal Sons" sermon is about half-way down the page.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Moving from Vagueness to Specificity

Piper has some advice on how to move from vague feelings of badness to specifically naming sin...and the benefits of this.
"A vague bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance."
Read the whole thing to see how and why he makes the move.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rigorous Study of the Bible Should Lead to Worship

I love this story about Piper as he explains why he quit teaching. He desired to have the diligent study of the Word to be in conjunction with singing and worship. It shows what God wants for us as we study His Word in depth.
"One of the highest points in my short, six-year teaching career in the Biblical Studies department at Bethel College was in the spring of 1977. I had spent the entire semester on Romans 9-11 leading about dozen advanced Greek students through the rigorous exegesis of these three chapters. It was the final class of the year and I was drawing the final 'arcs' on the board to sum up all the relationships between all the units. I drew one last arc over all three chapters, from one side of the board to the other, and underlined Romans 11:36 as the ultimate point of the entire section:
'From him, though him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.' Before I could turn around, these twelve students—some of the brightest I ever had—began to sing the doxology.

I didn’t ask them to. I didn’t plan it. It just came out. And that’s the way it was for Paul when he wrote this. He comes to the end of these three chapters on the ultimate purposes of God to show the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, and he breaks into doxology as he closes. All theology, rightly grasped, leads the mind and the heart to doxology. The story of God is about the glory of God. All revelation of the ways of God leads to exultation over the wonders of God."
It comes from this sermon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Submitting Ourselves to Divine Surgery

This post speaks to the similarities between going through a "routine" surgery and dealing with our own sin. The author basically goes in for what he considers a routine surgery. He is surprised to find out that more equipment and more staff are there than he would have thought to be necessary. Here's his conclusion:
"Deeply entrenched sin can only be taken care of with a full surgical team. Dignity must be laid aside; others must be allowed into your shame. There can be no self-surgery with such sin—no way around the humiliation of exposing yourself to others in a less than flattering way. We cannot have both dignity and repentance; both self-respect and freedom. Would you be released from the burden of sin? Then you must lose your pride and submit yourself to the divine surgery, knowing the attending nurses in God’s operating room will be—quite awkwardly—your brothers and sisters in the Lord. It’s uncomfortable, humiliating, and the only way."
(HT:Tim Challies)

What's Left After Obama?

Adbusters latest article is an interesting one. It looks at the possible outcomes of Obama taking charge in Washington.
"What are the possible consequences of Obama’s victory? I think there are at least two possibilities that circle in a perhaps melancholy dialectic. One possibility – which is highly unlikely, but at least conceivable – is that the change of regime will lead to local and diverse forms of popular politicization which perhaps might place in question the current socio-economic doxa. On this view, emboldened by Obama’s victory, various groups might accelerate their political activity around issues such as immigrant rights, union representation or corporate greed. What Obama’s victory might unleash is a sequence of progressive radicalizations inside the US and perhaps outside as well that would act as a serious irritant to the usual business of the state or the usual state of business.

The second possibility is the reverse, namely that the popular force that has been mobilized around Obama’s presidential campaign simply exhausts itself in its governmental victory. On this view, once Obama has been elected, citizens can switch off politically and sit back and watch how well his administration does. Politics becomes reduced to a spectacle of media and governmental representation. Furthermore, this possibility is undoubtedly the one favoured by the Obama campaign itself, which explains the somber, slightly disappointed tone to Obama’s speech on the night of his victory: ‘The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term’. On this view, the rhetoric of change (‘Together we can change the country and change the world’) was simply what it took to get people mobilized. Once the victory is secure, there must be no further mobilizations at the popular level. All must henceforth be mediated through the apparatus of government. Politics as the experience of a people suddenly present to itself and aware of its awesome power has to die at the precise moment when a representative government is elected. "

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coldplay last night

It was a pretty cool show.
Here's a view of Scott and Rachel from our seats (down with all the rest of the common people).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scripture is the nest that teaches us how to live and how to fly

"If any man despises the words of Scripture as language fit for simpletons and, in the stupidity of pride, climbs out of the nest where he was reared, woe betide him, for he shall meet his fall. Have pity on such callow fledgelings, O Lord, for those who pass by on the road may tread them underfoot. Send you angel to put them back in the nest, so that they may live and learn to fly."
Augustine, Confessions, Book XII, Section 27

The most important word in the universe

from Ray Ortlund
"What is the most important Book in the universe? The Bible. Which book within the Bible is the most important? Romans. Which chapter in Romans is the most important? Chapter 3. Which paragraph in Romans 3 is the most important? Verses 21-26. Which verse in that paragraph is the most important? Verse 25. Which word in verse 25 is the most important? Propitiation: ". . . whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

Therefore, the most important word in the most important verse in the most important paragraph in the most important chapter in the most important book within the most important Book in the universe is propitiation. That word is worth studying, understanding, revering."
Propitiation defined

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Augustine on joy and suffering

"It is always the case that the greater the joy, the greater is the pain which precedes it."
Confessions, Book VIII, Section 4

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Freedom of Life in the Spirit

The following comes from Galatians 5, starting in verse 16 (The Message version)
"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom...Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?...Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse."
I was really helped by this earlier this morning. It's so easy for me to be selfish. It's difficult to remember the Truth that getting outside myself and serving others in love is where true freedom lies. I often let my emotions dictate how I act towards people, instead of recalling the Truth of Christ's undeserved and uncoditional love for me. And I burden others by seeking their approval of me, instead of coming to them selflessly, trusting in the One who given me all the approval I need.

Spirit of Christ, set me free.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The freedom of living before the Audience of One

Ray Ortlund speaks about the culture of performance in Nashville (and really everywhere else) in his latest post.
"...there is a dark side to a culture of performance. The dark side is bondage to appearances -- smiling, beautiful, clever, attractive appearances. Nashville is a city of truly amazing people. But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, even as the show must go on. And we may well wonder, "Does anyone care about my broken heart?"

The gospel opens a door to freedom of heart by telling the success story of Someone Else: "But now the applause of God is heard -- without our own hard-won performances" (Romans 3:21, paraphrased).

What difference would it make if we knew deep within that the only One whose opinion finally matters has already chosen us for a Lifetime Achievement Award because of his performance for us, in our place? Wouldn't we relax? Wouldn't it free our creativity to perform better on the stage of this life right now? Wouldn't it help us cheer for someone else's success too?

This freedom can be ours moment by moment, as we receive approval from God on terms of his perfect grace. Jesus said to everyone tired of keeping up the act, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28)."

The History of Consumerism

It goes without saying that the United States is a consumeristic culture. But it hasn't always been this way. Check out this article that deals with how the consumer mindset of today has developed. It takes you to the point in time when luxeries became necessities and when shopping became linked with diversion and pleasure. Here's the opening paragraph:
"Consumerism is central to any study of the twentieth century. In its simplest form, it characterizes the process of purchasing goods such as food, clothing, shelter, electricity, gas, water, or anything else, and then consuming or using those goods. The meaning of consumerism, however, goes well beyond that definition, and has undergone a striking shift from the way it was first used in the 1930s to describe a new consumer movement founded in opposition to the increased prevalence of advertising. It is with much irony that by the end of the twentieth century, consumerism came to mean a cultural ethos marked by a dependence on commerce and incessant shopping and buying. This shift in meaning reflects the shift in how commercial values transformed American culture over the century."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama wins; so Rejoice, Pray, and Fight

These men weigh in on the wonderful significance of Obama's win, the fervency of prayer that should now be underway for him, and the fight still to be fought against abortion. (Click on the link to read the full article)

Al Mohler: America Has Chosen a President
"Without doubt, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed. We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged. We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God."
Anthony Carter: Poetic Providence
"Yes, Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned. Abortion clinics need to be closed, boarded up, or turned into houses of refuge. It may take 45 years for this redemption. It has taken 45 years for the painful cries of little black girls to be turned to joyful laughter. Let us rejoice that God has brought this nation a bit of redemption. And let us pray that repentance for the cries of the unborn will soon follow."
Thabiti Anyabwile: The Day After
"So, it’s the day after the election. Things have changed, in some obvious and more subtle ways. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! God’s election of you, if you’re a Christian, has not changed. His purpose to conform you to Christ has not changed. You really have won all that matters for eternity. That’s not to downplay the importance of some issues discussed in this election. But really, if McCain had won, how would your day today be in reality any different than your day yesterday? The laws today would be the same laws yesterday. Your work would still be before you. You haven’t lost any ground yet. Perhaps you’ve been given greater incentive to pray, reminded of what matters eternally, and in those things shone a more fruitful path forward. The Lord omnipotent reigns. Rejoice in full assurance!"
Randy Alcorn: It's Over; But It's Not Over
"America may or may not unravel in coming decades, but God’s kingdom certainly won’t. People of the world don't need America; they need Jesus. While living in the wreckage of this sin-stained earth, let’s realize the world's main problem is that it's inhabited by people like us, sinners in need of redemption. These thirsty people need us to reach out our hands and extend to them, as cold water, the love of Jesus."
Eric Redmond: Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama
" is not the governmental regulation that slaughters the innocent; it is the people who chose to end the lives of their children, and the willing executioners who kill for the sake of the monetary gain afforded by the abortion industry. The government only allows this sin to receive legal permission and protection. Nevertheless, that same government provides many laws that allow me to worship in freedom, preach the Gospel freely, vote in an election, and write blog posts like this one without fear of censorship or death. I readily can recognize the retention of "some kind of just government" under President Obama's rule."

Thanking God for Barack Obama

JT offers some good thoughts concerning Obama's victory.

It's very easy to forget--especially for those of us who are on the younger side--that it was only a little over 40 years ago that there were Jim Crow laws in the US. Just a generation ago, many African Americans were segregated from whites in public schools, transportation, restrooms, and restaurants.

Tonight, the United States has elected a biracial man to serve as its leader.

It would be an understatement to call this a watershed cultural moment in our country's history.

No matter who you voted for--or whether you voted at all--it's important to remember that, as President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

  • We are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7).
  • We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wealth is usually a curse

I was listening to a sermon by John Piper earlier entitled "Proclaiming the Excellencies of Christ, Not Prosperity, Among the Nations," and these words struck me:
"Wealth is NOT usually a blessing. It is usually a curse...Wealth is a mortal danger for those who have it. It does not make us generous and humble. It makes us buy more stuff, and it numbs our conscience because we have to blind ourselves to our inconsistencies with the Calvary road."
If you've listened to much Piper over the years, these words probably don't surprise you. He's helped me more than anyone else to understand the danger of loving money. But, these words are especially gripping and I think it's because he's never communicated this idea as bluntly. Money is usually a curse because it usually draws people "into a snare" and allows people to forget their need for Jesus. Jesus Himself said that it's "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

The words are also gripping because of the context and point of his message, namely, reaching the unreached people of the world. He says:
"it isn’t for lack of money that there are 1,568 peoples [people groups] with no missionaries. It’s because we have so much. The comforts of the West have made us soft and cautious and fearful and indulgent and self-protecting, instead of tough and risk-taking and bold and self-controlled and self-sacrificing."
I don't want to be soft. I don't want to be cautious. But I am. And I don't want to want to be comfortable. But I do want it. I'm surrounded by toys and many things that I don't need. I need God to take my eyes off worthless things and to preserve my life according to His Word. So, if you're my friend, be a friend to me by helping me in this. I want my life to count and be using the money He's let me borrow to help usher in His kingdom, not spend it on my vain comforts.

Read/Listen/Watch the whole sermon here

Praying for leaders better than we deserve

At his blog, Al Mohler gives 10 ways to pray today regarding the election. Here are the first three:
First, we should pray that God will bless America with leaders better than we deserve. Democratic systems inevitably reflect the electorate's decisions, and these decisions reveal underlying worldviews. And, truth be told, all we can expect from democracy is the government we deserve. We must pray for a government and for leaders better than we deserve. May God grant us mercy as he reigns and rules over all things, including this election.

Second, we should pray that Americans will be motivated to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship, yet also that we will be stripped of an unhealthy and idolatrous confidence in the power of government to save us. God has given us the gift of rulers and governments in order to restrain evil, uphold righteousness, and provide for civil order. No human ruler can save. No government official or office holder can heal the human heart, solve the sin problem, or accomplish final justice. These powers belong to God and God alone.

Third, we must pray that Americans will vote by conscience, not merely on the basis of celebrity or emotion. Christian citizens must vote to uphold righteousness and contend for righteous and just laws. But, at the same time, we must repent of moralism and the tacit assumption that better laws would produce better people.
He ends this way
May God grant us mercy and grace as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens -- and our responsibilities as Christians. This world is not our home, but we do bear responsibilities as followers of Christ as we are living here.

May God bless America, not because this nation deserves to be blessed, but because He is a God of grace and mercy. Oh God . . . save us from ourselves.
Read the whole thing.

A different perspective


Monday, November 03, 2008

Coldplay = ...Creed ?

A conversation I'm overhearing right now:
"...Coldplay is just like all these other bands that get their 5 minutes of fame. They'll have a song or two that's popular but will eventually be forgotten. They're really just like the new Creed. Creed had some good stuff back in the 90s, but no one listens to them now."
There is a reason no one listens to Creed any more. And there's a reason that Coldplay has sold 40 million albums over the last 8 years, without any sign of going away soon.

What laws of protection are removed with the signing of the Freedom of Choice Act?

Justin Taylor recently responded to some thoughts John Piper gave in a video recently. His post is good, and covers several different thoughts. However, I'm just pulling two things out that I think are most interesting.

He gives two points regarding God's sovereignty and how we should view it.
1) The fact that God ordains all things (i.e., his secret will) has a limited effect on our decision making. It can't prescribe how we act, but it can prevent us from having the wrong perspective (e.g., anxiety, fear, despair, misplaced trust, etc.). But in terms of interpreting events, the main way to read providence is backwards (as John Flavel wrote: "Some providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backward").

(2) The fact that God ordains means ensures that our actions have significance. The ordained outcome can never be seen as an excuse for complacency or fatalism.
He then adds this helpful summary from The Knights of Columbus on the the preservation of life regarding abortion since 1973:
  • The Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortions;
  • The federal law banning partial birth abortions, which was finally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2007;
  • The “Mexico City Policy,” which has barred the use of federal taxpayers’ money to pay for abortions in other countries;
  • Laws in 44 states that preserve a parental role when children under 18 seek abortions;
  • Laws in 40 states that restrict late-term abortions;
  • Laws in 46 states that protect the right of conscience for individual health care providers;
  • Laws in 27 states that protect the right of conscience for institutions;
  • Laws in 38 states that ban partial birth abortions;
  • Laws in 33 states that require counseling before having an abortion;
  • And laws in 16 states that provide for ultrasounds before an abortion.
And it seems all of these will be taken away if Obama gets elected by him signing the Freedom of Choice Act.

God's Sovereignty in the Election

We're two days away from a new president. Tension and anxiety are high on both sides, as each hopes that their candidate wins. I think it's important to be reminded of who's ultimately in control of it all. In chapter 2 of his book, Daniel says this of God:
"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings..."
And it doesn't stop there. Not only is God in control of setting our leaders in place, there is not one iota of thought or deed of these leaders that is out of God's control. Consider Proverbs 21:1:
"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."
So whether it's McCain or Obama's policies that scare you, know that nothing takes place without the mighty hand of God ordaining it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Martin Luther's gospel humility

David Mathis writes over at the DG blog about the continuity over the course of Martin Luther's life. It consisted of God-wrought humility, a deep understanding of his need for Christ.
"491 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed in 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. So he wrote in Latin.

But a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide. Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making in Scripture.

First Thesis

The truth of Luther's first thesis would reverberate throughout his lifetime, even finding expression in his last words.
His first thesis reads,

'When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said 'Repent,' he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.'

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren't merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian's continual posture.

Last Words

Almost 30 years later, on February 16, 1546, Luther's last words, written on a piece of scrap paper, echoed the theme of his first thesis:

'We are beggars! This is true.'

From first thesis to last words, Luther lived at the foot of the cross, where our rebellious condition meets with the beauty of God's lavish grace in the gospel of his Son—a gospel deep enough to cover all the little and massive flaws of a beggar like Luther and beggars like us. "

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The expression of love on the cross

In my philosophy class, I've been learning that philosophy is all about dissecting thought and pointing out distinctions. Tim Challies makes an important distinction about whom the expression of love on the cross was primarily directed towards, us or God. I think his answer is correct and important to think through. May it humble us.
"So what we miss in the "I love you this much" story of the cross is that Jesus' death was not primarily an expression of love for us, but for his Father. It had to be this way. Jesus greatest love is not for us, but for his Father. His sacrificial death was not first for us, but first for his Father, so that he might ransom those whom his Father loved. Though there is no doubt that the cross is an expression of love for us, it is first an expression of love for the Father and an expression of obedience to the Father. There is abundant proof for this in Scripture. Jesus said, "I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father" (John 14:31). So that the world may know I love you? No, so that the world may know I love the Father. It was this love and obedience that sustained Jesus, even on the cross. Early in his ministry he had said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work" (John 4:34). Addressing his disciples shortly before his death, Jesus said, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (John 15:9-10). The Apostle Paul says the same: "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). In all these things, and especially in his obedience, Jesus expressed a heartfelt love to his Father."
He then asks a question regarding the song "Above All."
'Crucified, laid behind a stone
He lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose trampled on the ground
He took the fall, and thought of me above all.'

Did Jesus think of me above all? Or did he think of his Father above all? Were Jesus’ last thoughts on the cross of me or of his Father?"

Garbage City

Adbusters recently created this brief slideshow about the Zabaleen people of the Moqqatam suberb in Cairo. It especially caught my eye because I had the opportunity to visit this place two summers ago and see what is known to many as "Garbage City." Here's the description from Adbusters:
"Moqqatam is one of the most extraordinary and hellish suburbs on earth. It is home to a people known as the Zabaleen, said to be the world’s greatest waste recyclers. The Zabaleen, which means plainly enough, “the garbage collectors,” pick up around 4,000 tons of Cairo’s waste each day. American researchers have shown that the Zabaleen recycle 85% of this garbage into something useful: a higher rate than anywhere else on the planet. The men do two shifts leaving about 4 in morning and again around 9. The rubbish is taken back to Moqqatam for the women to sit in and sort through. The organic waste is fed to livestock, the rest sorted for recycling. The future of the Zabaleen is uncertain. If the Cairo authorities get their way, this community of 25,000 Coptic Christians living in a Muslim country will be gone, and with it their unique, astonishing lifestyle. "
Here are a couple pics from our trip of "Garbage City"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To love is to be vulnerable

Tyler at the DG blog posts some good thoughts. This is a quote from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.
"Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as 'Careful! This might lead you to suffering.'

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

Black babies in danger

From Anne Hendershott at the Public Discourse
"Currently, white women's rates of abortion have declined to 10.5 abortions per 1,000 women while black women's rates are an alarming 50 abortions per 1,000 black women. Put in terms of actual pregnancies, the figures are shocking: Nearly half of all African American pregnancies end in abortion. Since 1973, the number of abortions by African American women has totaled more than twelve million."
The article goes on to discuss how roughly 90% Planned Parenthood's abortion centers are put in or near minority communities.
""From the beginning, the birth control movement's 'Negro Project' was especially appealing to eugenicists determined to check the climbing birthrates of those they defined as the ''unfit.'' This Planned Parenthood commitment to population control for blacks continues today. Last February, students from The Advocate, a student magazine at UCLA, released phone recordings of Planned Parenthood fundraising staffers approving of a donor who claimed he wanted his money to help 'lower the number of black people.' In an undercover investigation, the students discovered that Planned Parenthood staffers were more than happy to accept contributions from a caller posing as a donor stating 'the less black kids out there the better.'
And this is all happening during a time with a least some legal restrictions on abortion still out there.

Read the whole thing


Monday, October 27, 2008

That I would be good

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

That I would be fine even even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing

That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy

That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you
I heard this song about a year ago for the first time. It's by Alanis Morissette. It speaks to the longing we all have to receive validation, to know we are loved and accepted even when we look and feel unlovable. I'm thankful tonight that God sees my filth, more clearly than I or anyone else could ever see it, yet because of Christ, He still loves me and approves of me more than I will ever believe in this life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What abortion looks like

JT posts some thoughts and a very sobering (and graphic) video. I posted the video a while back. It was a good reminder to see it again, though it's very disturbing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Voting as if we are not voting

Piper has a good article on how Christians should vote.
"Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, 'the time has grown very short.'”
He gets his thoughts from 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
"The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away."
He concludes:
"Christians should deal with world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.

But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.

So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

By all means vote. But remember: 'The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever' (1 John 2:17).

Is morality an imposition on legislation?

Tim Challies answers a question from a reader regarding the extent to which Christians should impose morals upon legislation. This question stems from the issue of abortion, so most of the article is about that issue.

Here's a good distinction he makes between morals and values:
"I feel that another aspect of this reader's question deserves a response. He asked "to what extent, then, can we impose Christian values by law?" Here I think we need to pause to distinguish between values and morals. It used to be that we spoke of morals--truths that were applicable to all people. Societal morals were built upon a Christian foundation so that society widely accepted that homosexuality was wrong, that abortion was forbidden, that truth was a virtue, and so on. These morals stood above society, giving structure and imposing themselves on all people. But in recent decades, coasting in alongside a naturalistic worldview, morals have been diminished and have been replaced by values. Where morals are absolute, values are inherently subjective. Each of us may have our own sets of values. Society dictates that you are required to respect my values while I am required to respect yours.

So to what extent can we impose Christian values? Well, in a sense we do not seek to impose Christian values at all. Instead, we seek to impose Christian morals. We affirm that the Scripture gives us absolute standards of right and wrong and we seek to live within these boundaries. Again, these morals stand over and above us and call us all to obedience. They are vertical rather than horizontal. So we do not face our society with an attitude implying that we both hold to values and I hope that you will accept mine. Instead, we face society with the conviction that God's morals are good and absolute. We can impose these morals on others without fear. Were a national leader to find himself in a position of being able to eradicate abortion, he could do so from a moral standpoint and do it without regret or hesitation. In such a case he has no need to concern himself with another person's subjective values."
He concludes this way:
"Abortion is so awful, so despicable, so abhorrent that I have to think it will, indeed, be abolished some day. It is my hope and even my conviction that we will someday regard it as we now regard slavery. We will shake our heads and wonder how we could ever have lived in such a society. Children will learn in school of society's ambivalence to so great an evil and express proper shock and disgust. And I hope and pray that Christians will lead this fight and ascribe all glory to God when the battle is finally won."
Read all of it

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I blog

A lot of people lately have asked me about why I blog. It started as a way to get out some thoughts and point others to resources that I had come across. In the early stages, I wrestled through who my audience was going to be. Once I landed on that, the blogging became a little easier.

A big concern people have is whether blogging is narcissistic or not. It can become that way if you aren't careful, but with the right purpose for blogging you can avoid being too self-absorbed.

I think the main purposes of my blog (in no particular order) are to:

1) inform = I enjoy drawing attention to important, humorous, thoughtful, or just interesting things.

2) encourage = I enjoy encouraging others with Truth, whether it's a thought directly from the Word of God or from a book or anything else out in the world that points us to Truth. And though I don't do it that often, I enjoy sharing from my own life experience to help others see how God can work through our imperfections.

3) challenge = I enjoy enabling others to see things from a new perspective. I obviously don't have it all figured out, but want to challenge others (as well as myself) to do more active thinking, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

4) update = I enjoy providing updates on my life every now and then so people who aren't a daily part of it can get a glimpse of what's happening with me.

So, if you have a blog or are thinking of starting one, I would encourage you think through these things so you know what audience you are writing for. Also check out these two links:

10 reasons I don't read your blog.

Tips for better blog writing

Friday, October 17, 2008

Church Membership: Entering the Covenant Community

Russell Moore gives some good advice to college students about the importance of joining a church on top of whatever ministry they might be in. It ends up being good biblical advice to many people outside of college as well who don't feel church membership is all that important.
"The reason many college students identify primarily with a campus ministry rather than with a church is not because of any flaw in most campus ministry organizations. It is because, too often, we evangelical Christians have a deficient view of the church. We assume that it is any gathering of people who believe in Jesus and who do churchly things. Many Christians assume the church exists simply to help us learn more about Christ and pool our resources for missions. If that's the case, a campus ministry can do all those things, and more. But the Scriptures tell us the church is much more than that."
Read the whole thing

(HT:Tim Challies)

Don't be enamored by Obama's coolness

I started to apologize here about the overload of abortion information that I've been bringing lately...but I don't. I do it because it's really a big deal. Here's another article on the subject by Randy Alcorn. And I assure you it doesn't just say the same old thing. Check it out.
"The blood of weak and needy unborn children is precious in God’s sight. Please don't tell me abortion isn't the only issue. Of course it isn't. Treatment of the Jews wasn’t the only issue in 1940 Germany. Buying, selling and owning black people wasn’t the only issue in the United States of 1850. Nonetheless, both were the dominant moral issues of their day. Make no mistake about it. In our own day if we support a candidate who defends abortion, who is dedicated to that cause, we are supporting the killing of children. Yes, even if he’s the coolest candidate to come along in decades."

Josie the dog

I babysat my sister's dog two weekends ago while she was out of town. It was definitely an interesting experience. She's a pretty good dog for the most part, but wants CONSTANT attention. For instance:

This is her wondering why I would work on my computer when the option of playing with her is available.
And this is her after 20 minutes of staring at me, giving it one last shot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The true prosperity gospel = reconciliation to God

As opposed to this, I love THIS prosperity gospel.
"Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent." - Job 22:21-23
"For Christ also suffered once for sins...that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18)

Does virtual morality exist?

Adbusters looks at this question in their lastest article. They examine the violence and sexually perverse behavior happening in video games and other virtual worlds, and wonder if immorality has free reign there.
"Technology is dragging morality into some deep and murky philosophical waters, forcing us to reexamine our understanding of it as many of us choose to become actors in virtual worlds. By putting choice and consequence in closed virtual worlds where we can kill without harming others or facing punishment ourselves, we are forced to reconsider the case for moral behavior. New video games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and online communities such as Second Life, invite an increasingly large percentage of society to participate in fantasy worlds where we are invited to experience life without rules – to be the bad guy or the sexual deviant. The implicit suggestion of these products is that, like gravity, morality does not necessarily exist in a virtual world. Morality and consequence can be switched off. Anything goes...

...When Jesus began teaching and interpreting the moral code of the day, he radically redefined adultery, translocating the sin from the physical realm of actions and words to the virtual world of the mind and imagination. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, 'You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' What Jesus teaches is that God is concerned not only with what plays out in the physical world of actions (reality), but also with what takes place in the virtual world of our minds. A sociological approach to morality judges murder wrong because it harms an innocent person. A theological approach to morality finds murder sinful not only because of the physical act, but also because God is offended by an angry mind as well as violent hands. The humanist or secular view of morality is concerned only with what we do. True religious morality is concerned not only with what we do, but with who we are, with what we desire to do."

The Pornification of a Generation

This article is extremely sad. It's was written by Jessica Bennett of Newsweek and discusses the extent to which porn and the perversion of sexuality has invaded young adolescence.

(HT:Tim Challies)