Friday, November 28, 2008
"Those who desire to get rich...plunge people into ruin and destruction."
"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.I've blogged before on why you check out Paste Magazine. Do it.
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."
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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
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
"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
"...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. "
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
An extensive new research study has found that unhappy people watch more TV while those consider themselves happy spend more time reading and socializing...Read the whole thing
'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.'
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
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
"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
"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:It comes from this sermon.
'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."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"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 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
Monday, November 10, 2008
"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
"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."Propitiation defined
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."
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
"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
"...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)."
"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
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
"...it 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."
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 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
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.He ends this way
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.
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.Read the whole thing.
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.
Monday, November 03, 2008
"...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.
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").He then adds this helpful summary from The Knights of Columbus on the the preservation of life regarding abortion since 1973:
(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.
- 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.
"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.