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.