Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Books I Read in 2010

1. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (1977)
A book very hard to put down. It is the true account of a man's love for his wife before and after her death. But it's really about how he gets to the point where he can call her death "a severe mercy." It also tells of the couple's friendship with C.S. Lewis and thankfully contains a handful of letters he wrote them over the years, all of which are goldmines of truth.

2. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (1985)
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. From what I've heard, it is or at least should be the anchor in all advertising classrooms since it's been published. Postman looks at the history of technology and comes to the conclusion (even in 1985) that we are only doing things for their entertainment value, and that this is killing us. How much more is that statement true today? Everyone who is remotely interested in social media and technology should read this book. Actually, everyone who USES technology in the slightest should read this book.

3. The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (1978)
An amazing look at the attributes of God.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
For some reason, I've put off this book for a while. I love the latest movie adaptation (with Jim Caviezel) and finally decided to read the book. The first half is pretty similar to the movie and the last half is completely different, but even better in my opinion. It's a captivating read that doesn't take as long as you might think by looking at it. Definitely worth the hype of being a classic.

5. Jack: A life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer (2005)
I had wanted to read this for a while, and then had to for my seminary class this summer. It was well worth the 464 pages. Looking at all the biographies of Lewis, most would say this is the best and most comprehensive one (I've also heard good things about The Narnain). It is written through the eyes of a man named George Sayer who befriended Lewis at Oxford. He does a great job of not only giving the reader a look into the events that shaped Lewis in his childhood, but he also gets into the mind of who Jack (what all his close friends called him) really was, what made him tick. Excellent biography about an amazing man.

6. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (1908)
My first introduction to Chesterton was Orthodoxy a few years back. I eventually came to love his style and wit (though it took a second reading to get there). In this latest book, the style is still intact as he cleverly conveys a story about a group of detectives, anarchists and spies. It is a very fun and quick read. It also contains an amazing line, " man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid."

7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
I couldn't make it through The Tipping Point. This book, however, kept me captivated throughout. Gladwell basically presents true life scenarios of different people as he seeks to understand why certain people succeed and why some don't. It's a sociological study that is riveting.

8. The Pressure's Off by Larry Crabb (2004)
Crabb explains how we no longer have to live according to the old covenant of "do this and live" or "do this and be cursed." Subtly, many of us live our lives in such a way hoping to receive God's blessing because of our behavior or using God to make our lives work. This creates huge amounts of pressure and is not living in light of the gospel. When I read this book, God was doing a huge work in my heart, uncovering ways I had believed these lies. Crabb does an excellent job of pointing us to Christ and what he has accomplished for us so that we may live in freedom and grow in our sanctification.

9. The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield (2009)
Really fun read about the history of the Guinness family and their famous beer. The Guinness company was an incredibly philanthropic company that did much for the city of Dublin and the world.

10. Doctrines of Grace by Phil Ryken and J.M. Boice (2009)
One of the best treatments of Calvinism that I have ever read. The authors do a great job at showing the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace, as well as fairly handling the difficult verses that seem to build a case for the other side. They also give a great history lesson about how Calvinism has lead to much flourishing and how Arminianism typically leads to pietism which leads to liberalism which ultimately leads to atheism. Strong words, but they give some great evidence that is hard to argue with.

Honorable Mentions: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Foer), Counterfeit Gods (Keller), Lord of the Flies (Golding)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

1. Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons
2. Go - Jonsi
3. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
4. Rehab - Lecrae
5. Contra - Vampire Weekend
6. All We Grow - S. Carey
7. The Age of Adz - Sufjan Stevens
8. Heaven & Earth - Phil Wickham
9. Treats - Sleigh Bells
10. The Medicine - John Mark McMillan

And here's Paste's Top 50 of 2010.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Favorite Concerts of 2010

1. Jonsi - October 31 at the Tabernacle
It was THE most beautiful concert experience of my life. Simply stunning.

2. Mumford & Sons - November 7 at Buckhead Theater
Absolutely love their album. This show unleashed their energy found on the album. I've never been to a concert with that much crowd participation and energy. One of the most fun concerts I've ever been to.

3. Sufjan Stevens - November 6 at the Tabernacle
I saw him in 2006 and loved it but wasn't too sure how I would enjoy this one, because I wasn't exactly digging his new album. I'm glad I decided to go. He is so creative and he made the album come alive for me.

4. Arcade Fire - August 11 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
My first time seeing the band "you have to see in concert." Like with Sufjan, I preferred their earlier stuff, but the concert help me really get into their album. They play with a ton of energy and look like they're having a blast. This one might have been higher if it would have been a smaller venue and I was closer to the action.

5. John Mayer - September 8 at Lakewood Amphitheatre
Probably the eighth time I've seen Mayer. Not his best, but still pretty dang good. I love that he loves and is extremely good at playing the guitar.

6. Avett Brothers - September 10 at Chastain Amphitheater
First time seeing these guys. They are crazy energetic on stage, so that was fun. Great to sing along to the many songs I knew. It was also my first time at Chastain and I was NOT a fan of the crowd. Most people around me seemed disinterested, so that hurt the overall concert experience.

7. Over the Rhine - March 8 at Eddie's Attic
Second time to see them play in this venue. The first was maybe a slightly better show, but I love the sweet melodies of Karen (the lead singer).

8. William Fitzsimmons - July 23 at Smith's Olde Bar
Glad I finally got to see him. He's funny and his songs are good to hear live. His songs put you in a very chill mood (because they're all pretty depressing) and make you want to contemplate life.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Learning How to Think Critically

Nancy Pearcey recently wrote a good little article entitled How Critical Thinking Saves Faith. She looks at many students who leave their faith once they get to college because they were never taught how to think critically about it. She stresses the importance of students having a safe place to work through doubts while in high school.

Here a few paragraphs from the article:
Instead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food. The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games -- and pizza. But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own.

A study in Britain found that non-religious parents have a near 100 percent chance of passing on their views to their children, whereas religious parents have only about a 50/50 chance of passing on their views.

Clearly, teaching young people to engage critically with secular worldviews is no longer an option. It is a necessary survival skill.
Read the whole article here


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas as the end of redemptive history

John Piper (1981):
Creation out of nothing was an awesome event. Imagine what the angelic spirits must have felt when the universe, material reality of which they had never imagined, was brought forth out of nothing by the command of God.

The fall was an awful event, shaking the entire creation.

The exodus was an amazing display of God’s power and love.

The giving of the law, the wilderness provisions, the conquering of Canaan, the prosperity of the monarchy—all these acts of God in redemptive history were very great and wonderful. Each one was a very significant bend in the river of redemptive history, bringing it ever and ever closer to the ocean of God’s final kingdom.

But we trivialize Christmas, the incarnation, if we treat it as just another bend on the way to the end. It is the end of redemptive history.

And I think the analogy of the river helps us see how.

Picture the river as redemptive history flowing toward the ocean which is the final kingdom of God, full of glory and righteousness and peace. At the end of the river the ocean presses up into the river with its salt water. Therefore, at the mouth of the river there is a mingling of fresh water and salt water. One might say that the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travelers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them.

Christmas is not another bend in the river. It is the arrival of the salt water of the kingdom of God which has backed up into the river of history. With the coming of Christmas, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep.

Christmas is not another bend in the river of history. It is the end of the river. Let down your dipper and taste of Jesus Christ, his birth and life and death and resurrection. Taste and see if the age to come has not arrived, if the kingdom has not come upon us. Does it not make your eyes sparkle?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth about Santa

Mark Driscoll recently wrote an article in the Washington Post entitled "What we tell our kids about Santa". It's a very interesting read as he highlights some of the facts about the real Saint Nicholas. He talks about his generosity and how he even defended the deity of Christ at the famous Council of Nicaea in 325.

Mark basically says there are three ways to deal with Santa story. We can reject it. We can accept it. Or we can redeem it. You can probably guess which one he goes with. Here's his summary:
In sum, Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as God. Our kids thank us for being both honest and fun, which we think is what Jesus wants.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Ultimate Outrage of the Universe

John Piper describes what sin really is:
The glory of God is not honored.
The holiness of God is not reverenced.
The greatness of God is not admired.
The power of God is not praised.
The truth of God is not sought.
The wisdom of God is not esteemed.
The beauty of God is not treasured.
The goodness of God is not savored.
The faithfulness of God is not trusted.
The promises of God are not relied upon.
The commandments of God are not obeyed.
The justice of God is not respected.
The wrath of God is not feared.
The grace of God is not cherished.
The presence of God is not prized.
The person of God is not loved.

The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist (Rom. 11:36) – who holds every person's life in being at every moment (Acts 17:25) – is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored by everybody in the world. That is the ultimate outrage of the universe.
From his sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World (9-2-01)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Presuming upon "Open Doors"

There is a recent news story about a young guy who works with the railroad being called by the New York Jets to play in some upcoming games. His salary would be ten times what he is currently making. But, he decided not to play. Why the heck not??

The author of this blog gives some great insight into the decision. At one point he says:
We live in a day-and-age when even Christians presume that every open door is a door opened by God. If it’s ‘good’ it must be from God...but that’s pragmatism at best.
I thought that was very convicting. It's easy to think that way, that every good and comfortable thing must be an open door from God. If your job sucks then God must want you to get a new one, right? Well, maybe not.

The blogger then cites a very applicable passage in Hebrews 11:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Comfort, financial or otherwise, does not always equal God's desire/will for our lives. His main desire for us is to know and treasure Him above everything else. And I would submit the more comfort and financial stability we have in our lives, or the more we chase certain dreams, the harder it is to do that. Just a thought.

Go here to read the whole story.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Difference Between Gutenberg and Zuckerberg

Neal Gabler (in the LA Times):
...Gutenberg's Revolution transformed the world by broadening it, by proliferating ideas. Zuckerberg's Revolution also may change consciousness, only this time by razing what Gutenberg had helped erect. The more we text and Twitter and "friend," abiding by the haiku-like demands of social networking, the less likely we are to have the habit of mind or the means of expressing ourselves in interesting and complex ways.

That makes Zuckerberg the anti-Gutenberg. He has facilitated a typography in which complexity is all but impossible and meaninglessness reigns supreme. To the extent that ideas matter, we are no longer amusing ourselves to death. We are texting ourselves to death.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Severe Mercy

I finished reading A Severe Mercy over Thanksgiving. It's one of those books I had heard about for a while but never got around to reading. I'm very glad I finally did. It was easily the best book I've read this year.

The author, Sheldon Vanauken, tells the story of how he falls in love with his wife Davy, how they both befriend C.S. Lewis and come to faith in Oxford, and how Sheldon deals with the death of Davy. It is very well-written and hard to not become drawn in.

It's hard to imagine a husband and wife loving each other more than what's described in this book. And to see how Sheldon ends up calling his wife's death a severe mercy is pretty amazing.
"If my reasoning - my judgment - is correct, then her death in the dearness of our love had these results: It brought me as nothing else could do to know and end my jealousy of God. It saved her faith from assault. It brought me, if Lewis is right, her far greater help from eternity. And it saved our love from perishing in one of the other ways that love could perish. Would I not rather our love go through death than hate?

If her death did, in truth, have these results, it was, precisely, a severe mercy."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wired for Distraction

An interesting article was published in the New York Times a couple of days ago entitled Growing Up Digital, Wired For Distraction. It looks at the growing problem of how technology is negatively impacting how students are learning. Leading a group of high school juniors myself, I constantly see how dangerous the distractions in their lives really are (they've also helped me evaluate and eliminate the distractions in my own life). Learning and reading is boring. Entertainment is becoming the goal in all of life. Neil Postman's famous book "Amusing Ourselves to Death" is a very appropriate statement for what is happening to this generation.

Here's a few paragraphs from the article:
Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.”


Sean’s favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else.

“Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,” says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: “I haven’t done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I still look the same.”

Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”

He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

"It is finished" is the power for sanctification and freedom

From a recent post by Matt Ballard:
I find it interesting to note that the last words of Buddha were “keep striving”….. the last words of Jesus? ”It is finished”. I find my perpetually caffeinated, got-it-together persona often sounds a lot more like Buddha than like Jesus. My inner voice reminds me of a multitude of failures and urges me to make up for it by working harder, doing better. It tells me to strive FOR the privileged position of acceptability, but the Gospel of grace tells me to rest. It’s finished. Strive? YES, but strive FROM the privileged position of a beloved child that Jesus has earned for me. Engage your world with a restful soul. Maybe you can identify with me.

Jesus seems to always be wrecking my paradigm. Why would he do that? Because my old paradigm of ‘get it together, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, fake it till you make it, it’s not spiritual to need or grieve or be human perfectionism’ is tailor made to rob me of life, intimate relationships, freedom, and joy. God is in the business of liberating my heart and emancipating me to live out the story of His love to a watching world.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Spurgeon on God's covenant keeping grace and our sonship

There are so many amazing truths in the following quote. I challenge you to read through it a few times to let it all sink in. These are the kinds of truths that will save your life from worry, fear, legalism, anger, and despair. They will instead help you treasure Christ more and be filled with a deep, thankful joy.

Charles Spurgeon (from a sermon preached on Oct. 6, 1889):
...there can be no reason in the faultiness of the believer why the Lord should cease to do him good, seeing that he foresaw all the evil that would be in us. No wandering child of God surprises his heavenly Father. He foreknew every sin we should commit: he proposed to do us good notwithstanding all this foreknown iniquity. If, then, he entered into a covenant with us, and began to bless us with all our sin before his mind, nothing new can spring up which can alter the covenant once made with all these drawbacks known and taken into account. There is no scarlet sin which has been omitted, for the Lord has said, "Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet." He entered into a covenant that he would not turn away from us, to do us good; and no circumstance has arisen, or can arise, which was unknown to him when he thus pledged his word of grace.

Moreover, I would have you remember that we are by God at this day viewed in the same light as ever. He saw us at the first as under sin, fallen and depraved, and yet he promised to do us good.

"He saw me ruined in the fall, yet loved me notwithstanding all."

And if to-day I am sinful, if to-day I have to groan by reason of my evil nature, yet I am but where I was when he chose me, and called me, and redeemed me by the blood of his Son. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." We were undeserving objects upon whom he bestowed his mercy, out of no motive but that which he drew from his own nature; and if we are undeserving still, his grace is still the same. If it be so, that he still deals with us in the way of grace, it is evident that he still views us as undeserving; and why should he not do good towards us now as he did at the first? Assuredly, the fountain being the same, the stream will continue to flow.

Beloved, we feel sure that he will not cease to bless us, because we have proved that even when he has hidden his face he has not turned away from doing us good. The Lord has withdrawn the light of his countenance, but never the love of his heart. When the Lord has turned away his face from his people, it has been to do them good, by making them sick of self and eager for his love. How often he has brought us back from wandering by making us feel the evil of the sin which grieves his Spirit! When we have cried, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him!" we have been greatly blessed by the anguish of our search. Bear me witness, ye tried people of God; the Lord's chastenings have always been for your good. When the Lord has bruised you till the wound has been blue, your heart has been bettered. When the Lord has taken away your comforts, he has done you good by driving you closer to the highest good. The Lord has enriched you by your losses, and made you healthy by your sicknesses. If, then, the Lord our God, when he is seen in darkest colours, has not turned away from doing us good, we are persuaded that he will never cease daily to load us with benefits.”

Moreover, remember that he sees us now in Christ. Behold, he has put his people into the hands of his dear Son. He has even put us into Christ's body; "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." He sees us in Christ to have died, in him to have been buried, and in him to have risen again. As the Lord Jesus Christ is well-pleasing to the Father, so in him are we well-pleasing to the Father also; for our being in him identifies us with him. If, then, our acceptance with God stands on the footing of Christ's acceptance with God, it standeth firmly, and is an unchanging argument with the Lord God for doing us good. If we stood before God in our own individual righteousness, our ruin would be sure and speedy; but in Jesus our life is hid beyond peril. Firmly believe that until the Lord rejects Christ he cannot reject his people; until he repudiates the atonement and the resurrection, he cannot cast away any of those with whom he has entered into covenant in the Lord Jesus Christ.

...The cost to which our Lord has gone assures us that he will complete his designs of grace.”
Thanks to Dan for the link.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Living in the light always, not just publically

Ed Welch:
If there is one ecumenical feature of most theologies it is this: God sees and hears. He is omnipresent. Yet if there is one feature of most theologies that quickly slips from conscious awareness, it would be this one. Most sin is a temporary denial of how we live publicly. Addiction is the classic example. Most addicts will not indulge their addictions when a spouse, boss or parent is present. It’s amazing how much self-control we can have when people are watching...


This can too quickly evoke visions of a heavenly hall monitor or a parent saying, “Watch yourself young man, because I have my eye on you.” This isn’t the picture God gives us. Instead, the eyes of God are our hope. They are a blessing. When he sees us it means that he is close, and there is nothing better than to be in the presence of the Lord. So the picture is not that of a heavenly gestapo. It is of heaven penetrating earth – God with us. His presence reminds us that we are in his holy presence, in which we can see that sin is a destructive intruder. With the Light shining clearly, we can run from sin and death, and we can be imitators of the Light. His presence is our protection.

Yet there are old instincts in us. We still have some affinity with the darkness. We don’t want to go to that darkness all the time. We only want to go there when our interests diverge from God’s stated will. For example, we prefer the darkness when we believe that someone who disrespected us needs a good cursing out, done only, of course, when no one is looking, or when our lusts need to be topped off. We think, God will understand. We are only human, after all.

Lord, have mercy. And he does.

The Merciful One draws us back into the light. He reveals our deceptive and self-destructive tendency to hide in the shadows. He proclaims forgiveness that has been assured by the cross of Jesus. He surrounds us, once again, in unfailing love. We are left with a greater desire to see reality and remain in the light.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Jonsi's glimpses of glory

I went to see Jonsi Sunday night at the Tabernacle and was blown away. I knew it would be good, but I didn't know that it would be THAT good. As you might remember, when his album came out last spring, I could not stop listening to it. It is a beautiful album and Jonsi does an amazing job at presenting it in concert as such.

I believe Jonsi was unknowingly providing glimpses of glory through his performance on Sunday night. His magnificent voice, the imaginative instrumentation, and the stunning graphics behind him truly created a transcendent experience. As I was caught up in it, I was thinking about how much greater God's infinite beauty and glory must be. I'm thankful for these moments that help remind me of that truth.

To get a taste of what I'm talking about, here's the ending to his song Boy Lilikoi:

And here's the last song of the night, Grow Till Tall. He definitely saved his most magnificent performance until last:

Also, since it was Halloween, I decided to dress up with some friends of mine the Baileys. I was supposed to be the crazed Joaquin Phoenix (of the Letterman interview), but my get-up also seemed to work as John Belushi, Will Smith of Men in Black, and James Bond (all according to various people's guesses throughout the night). I'm good with that variety.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Interesting Facts About Coke

"A billion hours ago, human life appeared on earth.
A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged.
A billion seconds ago, the Beatles changed music.
A billion Coca-Colas ago was yesterday morning."
- Robert Goizueta, CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, April 1997
From A History of the World in Six Glasses:
  1. Coca-Cola got its name from two of its main ingredients, the South American coca plant (known as "the divine plant of the Incas) and nuts from the West African kola plant.
  2. In the late 1800s, John Pemberton was a maker of patent medicines who combined the coca and kola plants with sugar to make a new medicine that was meant to cure ailments.
  3. Pemberton created the drink in 1886, when Atlanta voted to prohibit the sale of alcohol for two years. Coca-Cola became popular as a temperance drink and was well established once the ban was lifted.
  4. Asa Candler secured the rights to Coca-Cola after Pemberton's death in 1888 for $2,300. By the end of 1895, annual sales exceeded 76,000 gallons as it was being sold in every state in America to pharmacists.
  5. In 1899, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead were granted rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola which led to it being drunk by the everyday consumer, being made available in every town in America.
  6. Coca-Cola became a global brand as America emerged as a global superpower through WWI and WWII. During these wars, it was sent with the troops and was considered a great morale booster, both as a refreshment and reminding them of home.
  7. Many parts of the world boycotted Coca-Cola because it's association with American values. The Arab world had a boycott until the late 1980s because of Coke's entry into Israel in the 1950s.
  8. Today, Coca-Cola is said to be the second most commonly understood phrase in the world, after "OK". Globally it supplies 3% of humanity's total liquid intake.
In a series
1. Beer
2. Wine
5. Tea
6. Coke

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From Illegimate Child to Beloved Son

My good friend Jeff Dunbar was recently given the opportunity to share a bit of his life story in this video. It is a moving story of redemption and was made by another good friend and talented videographer, James. I thank God for Jeff as he has selflessly given himself to me over the last few years, teaching me much about forgiveness, redemption, and the love of the heavenly Father for me. I hope you are encouraged by the story:

Jeff Dunbar from James Christerson on Vimeo.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some Interesting Facts About Tea

From A History of the World in Six Glasses:
  1. Tea originated in the jungles of the eastern Himalayas and was found to valuable to Buddhist and Taoist monks in China as early as the sixth century BC.
  2. Green tea was the kind of tea that had always been consumed by the Chinese. It made it to Europe in 1610, France in the 1630s, and England in the 1650s.
  3. In Britain, almost no one drank tea at the beginning of the 17th century and almost everyone did by the end of it. Black tea became popular during this time, partly because it was safer to drink.
  4. At the end of the 17th century, a cup of tea was about five times more expensive than a cup of coffee. By the mid-eighteenth century, tea was becoming the cheapest drink outside of water.
  5. In 1787, a tea merchant named Richard Twining put a specially designed sign over his door as well as a label on his tea with the same design. This is though to be the oldest commercial logo in continuous use in the world.
  6. In the early 1800s, the British East India Company, the supplier of Britain's tea, started trading large amounts of opium from India to the Chinese in exchange for tea. In 1838, the Chinese emperor put an end to the opium trade which led to the Opium War of 1839-42. Britain defeated China and took control of Hong Kong.
  7. By the end of the nineteenth century, India took over China as Britain's main supplier of tea after it was discovered a certain type of tea shrub was indigenous to India. India is now the world's largest producer and consumer of tea.
In a series
1. Beer
2. Wine
5. Tea
6. Coke

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What does a man gain from Facebook friends?

Jeffrey Overstreet offers his review of The Social Network as well as some comments on Facebook itself. Very intriguing. Here's a few paragraphs that stood out to me:
When I hear people scorning Facebook as a total waste of time, my response is this: Facebook is what you make it. If we fill it with thoughtless words, trivialities, and self-absorption, we’ll waste each other’s time. But if we use it to cultivate substantial conversation, treating people generously, we may be surprised at what grows there...


This desire to remake the world to satisfy ourselves is as old as the oldest story. When the serpent in the garden appealed to our vanity, inviting us to become “like God,” we became insecure. We doubted our worthiness. We accepted a poisonous vision of power games and competition.

For our sins, God revoked our access to the garden. He offered us grace and reconciliation, but what have we done? We’ve gone about building gardens of our own design, setting ourselves up and judge and jury.

The conclusion of Christ’s parable of the prodigal son is revelatory. Who is the only one absent from the feast? The prodigal’s older brother. He has access to all of his father’s blessings, but he can’t enjoy them because he is upset that blessings aren’t being dealt out to his liking.

In his commentary on The Social Network, David Brooks writes, “I was reminded of the famous last scene in The Searchers, in which the John Wayne character is unable to join the social bliss he has created. The character gaps that propel some people to do something remarkable can’t be overcome simply because they have managed to change the world.”

Despite his grand achievements and their rewards—money, fame, power—Zuckerberg ends up lonely and dissatisfied. His pride has cost him his only friends. Demanding love on his own terms, he’s made meaningful relationship impossible.

If you build it, they will come. And they may even find blessings in your work. But will you? What does it gain a man if he wins a world of Facebook friends but loses his soul?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lecrae - Rehab

In 2008, Lecrae released his third studio album entitled Rebel. It was ground-breaking and definitely put him on the map as the most talented Christian hip-hop artist. Musically and lyrically the album is phenomenal.

A couple of weeks ago, he released another highly anticipated album called Rehab. At first listen I thought it was good, but felt it lacked a lot of the instant hits of Rebel (songs like "Don't Waste Your Life" & "Got Paper"). However, after a few more listens I have become hooked. It really is a fun album that both gets my body moving and encourages me with thoughtful, gospel-centered lyrics.

Check out this video for his song "Background":

And here's the song "Just Like You".I love the way it ends:
You said you came for the lame, I’m the lamest
I made a mess you say you’ll erase it, I’ll take it...
You said you came for the lame, I’m the lamest
I broke my life, but you say you’ll replace it, I’ll take it...

Monday, October 18, 2010

How sitcoms lead to loneliness

David Foster Wallace:
And to the extent that [TV] can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form, television can reinforce its own queer ontology of appearance: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passé expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become judges; the crime is naiveté. The well-trained viewer becomes even more allergic to people. Lonelier.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is the Sabbath still required for Christians?

Justin Taylor has been posting some interesting excerpts from Thomas Schreiner's upcoming book, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. The latest selection is on the subject of the Sabbath. I think Schreiner makes a compelling case and one that I have begun to agree with the last couple of years. Here's the summary:
Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.
You can read the whole argument here

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Interesting Facts About Coffee

When a seventeenth-century European businessman wanted to hear the latest business news, follow commodity prices, keep up with political gossip, find out what other people thought of a new book, or stay abreast of the latest scientific developments, all he had to do was walk into a coffeehouse" - p.151, A History of the World in 6 Glasses
From A History of the World in Six Glasses:
  1. Coffee originated in the Arab world, first becoming popular in Yemen in the mid-fifteenth century.
  2. The first coffeehouse opened in London in 1652, and by 1663 there were already eighty-three.
  3. Arabia was the only supplier of coffee until the Dutch started coffee plantations in the 1690s in Java (in modern day Indonesia).
  4. In January of 1684, a conversation took place in a coffeeshop about the theory of gravity. Edmond Halley, one of three discussing the matter, visited Isaac Newton a few months later to ask him about the idea. Newton had done some work previously but decided to devote himself to the subject. In 1687 he published The Principia which outlines the principle of universal gravitation.
  5. The world's leading insurance market, Lloyd's of London, was birthed out of a coffeeshop opened by Edward Lloyd in the late 1680s.
  6. There was only one coffee tree in Paris in 1723 and was a gift from the Dutch to Louis XIV in 1714. A French naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu was able to obtain the tree and take it to the French West Indies. A few years after harvesting the plant, descendants of that original plant could be found in many other countries, which began to overtake the Arabian coffee market.
  7. The coffeehouses of Paris in the mid-eighteenth century were centers of philosophical and political discussion that produced the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.
In a series
1. Beer
2. Wine
4. Coffee
5. Tea
6. Coke

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Looking at The Social Network

I saw The Social Network early last week. It is definitely worth seeing, both for the fast paced, intriguing plot line as well as for the deeper messages being conveyed. I won't ruin anything, but it's amazing to watch how utterly inept Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerburg is at connecting with real people. He is so consumed with being part of exclusive groups and being successful that he is unable to make and keep real friends.

There is so much in the film that should cause us all to reflect on the ways we engage in community today. With the world of Facebook and social media only growing stronger, we ought to be considering how to keep fostering face to face interactions with our friends, as opposed to merely scanning statuses and pictures with an occasional note or comment.

I like the way Brett McCracken said it in the conclusion of his recent review of the film. He basically gives a summary of why Facebook is so dominant:
In this new age, punk geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg come out on top because they’ve learned how to use technology to break down the previously impenetrable boundaries of class and power. They’ve learned how to take the aristocrat’s most prized possession–networking, exclusive connections–and make it an accessible, populist pastime for the masses. Facebook is a revolution because it harnesses the universal human longing to know and be known, while slowly eroding the old guard’s stratified systems of cultural hierarchy and power. Facebook is about leveling. Ironically, anyone can be a part of it, even while it feeds on our desire for exclusive membership and the performance/proclamation of unique identity. The paradox of this is why 600 million people are on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s youngest billionaire.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Some Interesting Facts about Spirits

"Spirits played a role in the enslavement and displacement of millions of people, the establishment of new nations, and the subjugation of indigenous cultures." - p. 129, A History of the World in Six Glasses
From A History of the World in Six Glasses:
  1. The modern form of distillation began in the Arab world around 970 AD and was routinely applied to wine at this time.
  2. For many centuries, distilled wine was called 'aqua vitae" (water of life) because it was thought to preserve youth, improve memory, cure blindness, and treat diseases.
  3. With the invention of the printing press during the 1430s, distilled drinks became more of a recreational drink.
  4. The sugar production and trade during the fifteenth and sixteenth century, unfortunately using millions of slaves, was highly influenced by the demand for spirits such as brandy and rum.
  5. Since rum results from the waste product of sugar production, molasses, it has to be made in coastal towns.
  6. In the second half of the seventeenth century, rum was becoming the colonists' new favorite drink and it soon became the most profitable manufactured item in New England.
  7. Whiskey was the drink of the American settlers moving westward, since it was made from cereal grains, and quickly became associated with independence and the American pioneer spirit.
In a series
1. Beer
2. Wine
3. Spirits
4. Coffee
5. Tea
6. Coke

Monday, October 04, 2010

Baptism as a gift of God to His people

My friend and coworker Jason posted some good thoughts on paedobaptism (infant baptism). He points out a few different arguments for paedobaptism, as well as a couple of good resources, for those of you that are confused or wrestling through this issue. I encourage you to read his post.

Personally, I have grown more convinced that this is the biblical understanding of baptism. It really clicked for me last spring as I was studying the theology of the church and the sacraments in my RTS class. Besides the normal arguments, the following idea did it for me. Circumcision for the Jews was a sign that they ought to be circumcised of the heart (Jer. 9:25-26). In the same way, baptism is now a sign that points the people of God towards His covenant love and reveals the need to receive a baptism of the heart (See Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is a sign of entrance into the visible covenant community.

Jason took the following quote from Robert Booth's book, Children of the Promise. I think it wonderfully sums up the point of the sacrament of baptism:
“Baptism, as circumcision, is a gift of God to his people, not of his people to God. Abraham did not bring circumcision to God; he ‘received’ it from God. God gave it to him as a ‘sign’ and a ‘seal,’ not to others but to himself. It is inadequate, therefore, to speak of baptism as ‘the badge of a Christian man’s profession.'...The witness of baptism is not to others but to ourselves; and it is not by us but by God that the witness is borne.”

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Problem With Attraction

Ed Welch:

Attraction is fun, and in Western systems of courtship and marriage, it is the way couples get started, but attraction is about me. It’s about how someone makes me feel. In that sense, attraction is rubbish. It gets people together but it is powerless to keep them together. Even more, attraction, without the addition of other forms of love, promises to separate marriages and any once-close relationship.

What must supplant attraction goes by different names – commitment, faithfulness, love that only death separates, covenantal love and others. Those are all good, and I am sure they guide many people, but they all fall short for me. Commitment seems sterile, so does faithfulness – dogs can do that. Covenantal love sounds too legal.

“I love you because I love you.” That is a great one. God spoke it to the Israelites and he continues to speak love to those who are with Jesus.
The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
But this sets the bar too high. God loves because he is love; I am not love. So I have to search for other ways to describe this different-than-attraction love.

Servant-love? No, that is an important expression of love, but servants don’t share their hearts with the one they serve. They just do what they are supposed to do. The New Testament injects servant-love with new meaning and vitality, but there are times when it feels too impersonal.

“Admire” or “enjoy” are better than attraction. They are less self-referential. They suggest that there are praise worthy features in the other person. These, however, take time. When the thrill is gone in a relationship, admiration and enjoyment won’t offer any new power to love.

What we need is something that captures the imbalanced nature of the love of Jesus for us. He loved us first and he loved us more than we will ever love him in return. In response, we too want to love others first and more. That’s the way to be fully human.

The idea of debt captures it.
Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:7-8)
When we owe someone, there is a slight imbalance in the relationship. This is what “I do” means. We commit ourselves to give more than we receive.

Sample vows could go like this.
There are a number of reasons why I am attracted to you.
Now I will move on to better things.
I am committed to learn how to love you
more than I love me and
more than I want to be loved by you.
I want this to be obvious to you.
I want this to imitate the unity we can have with Jesus.
I want this to please God.
May God show me grace and mercy.
This vow aims to do at least two things. It dethrones the usurper Attraction, separates it from Jesus’ style of love, and re-establishes the imbalanced nature of Christian love. Unity shows up, as it should. Unity reminds us that real love is not silent when the other spouse is loveless. We can and should speak out when the other person is aiming for lesser things, such as mere attraction. For example, when the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he loved them more than they loved him, but he also pleaded with them to open their hearts and love him in return. In this, Paul was not saying, “I need love.” He was saying, “As members of Christ we are called to love one another. When we don’t, someone gets hurt and the glory of God becomes veiled to the world.”

For the next generation to get it right, we must loose our infatuation with attraction. We must prefer arguments about who is in debt to whom. “No, I owe you love, and I’m not listening to one more word of your protests.” I owe you more than you owe me – that’s where we go when we meditate on the love of Jesus. Then we can know exactly what we are doing when we say “I do.”

Friday, October 01, 2010

History of Hip Hop Duet

Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon recently performed a 3 minute duet of the history of hip hop that was pretty creative. Check it out:


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Interesting Facts About Wine

From A History of the World in Six Glasses:
  1. The age of wine began in the middle of the first millennium BC, dethroning beer as the most cultured and civilized drinks.
  2. The Greeks were the first to produce wine on a large commercial scale.
  3. It was drunk at formal drinking parties (symposia) where drinkers would try to outdo each other in wit, poetry, or rhetoric.
  4. Greeks mixed their wine with water before consumption. Drinking wine neat was looked down upon.
  5. The Greeks spread their wine and their knowledge of wine cultivation to Sicily, southern Italy, and southern France.
  6. The Italian peninsula became the world's foremost wine-producing region around 146 BC.
  7. Today, the world's leading producers of wine are France, Italy, and Spain. The leading consumers of wine are Luxembourg, France, and Italy (drinking 55 liters per person per year).
In a series
1. Beer
2. Wine
3. Spirits
4. Coffee
5. Tea
6. Coke

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pursue Christ and Just Do Something

What is God's will for my life? Who am I supposed to marry? What job am I supposed to take? What is my calling??

These are questions that I hear a lot, from others and from myself. I believe the following quote from Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something is an excellent response to these types of questions:
Simply put, God's will is your growth in Christlikeness. God promises to work all things together for our good that we might be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). . . . God never assures us of health, success, or ease. But He promises us something even better: He promises to make us loving, pure, and humble like Christ. In short, God's will is that you and I get happy and holy in Jesus.

So go marry someone, provided you're equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it's not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God's sake start making some decisions in your life. Don't wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God's will, so just go out and do something. (61)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alternate Atlanta

I'm very proud of my friends that played a part in creating this video. And I'm excited to play a small part in creating an Alternate Atlanta. Check this out to see what I mean:

ALT from James Christerson on Vimeo.

If you're a young adult in the North Atlanta area, be sure to check out the young adult ministry at Perimeter Church: Alternate Atlanta

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some Interesting Facts about Beer

I started reading A History of the World in 6 Glasses a few weeks back. It's a very interesting read looking at how six drinks (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, coke) have defined different ages. Here are several facts about beer that I found interesting:
  1. Around 4300 BC, the first cities began to be developed in Mesopotamia and Egypt. This was the time when beer really took off.
  2. Beer was accidentally discovered when grain soaked in water produced malt and when gruel left out became fizzy and alcoholic.
  3. It was safer to drink than water because it was made using boiling water.
  4. The earliest written documents were Sumerain wage lists and tax receipts that contained the symbol for beer, since it was a used as a form of currency.
  5. It was consumed together from the same vessel.
  6. The world's oldest recipe is for the making of beer.
  7. The phrase "bread and beer" was used as an everyday greeting much like people today saying "good luck."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

In my class last week, a particular sermon was brought up as we ended our discussion on sanctification. I was surprised to find that I have never mentioned this sermon before on this blog, because it has had a very profound impact on me over the last couple of years (props to my friend Whitney for introducing it to me).

The sermon is entitled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection and it was given/written by Thomas Chalmers in the early part of the 1800s. The sermon is based on the text in 1 John 2:15 which says "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

The sermon is basically about how to pursue holiness and turn from sin. Here is the basic argument that Chalmers gives:
the most effectual way of withdrawing the mind from one object is not by turning it away upon desolate and unpeopled vacancy, but by presenting to its regards another object still more alluring.
And again:
You must address to the eye of his mind another object, with a charm powerful enough to dispossess the first of its influence, and to engage him in some other prosecution as full of interest and hope and congenial activity as the former.
His point is that "the heart must have something to cling to" and that the best way to not love the world is to set one's affections on the gospel of Christ. Here he describes this new affection: the gospel do we so behold God as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners—and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God—and to live without hope is to live without God, and if the heart be without God the world will then have all the ascendency. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ who alone can dispost it from this ascendency.

It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver, and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good-will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon, and a gracious acceptance—it is then that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerating bosom.
As you can tell from my last few posts, I have absolutely loved learning and being reminded of the gospel-centered way of sanctification. I am hard wired to be a doer and by doing I want the credit for the thing done. And since I can't do perfectly, I fall into despair OR I choose to not recognize sin as sin. By fixing my eyes on the gospel and treasuring Christ above all, I am given power and freedom to resist that which destroys me, namely sin, and pursue that which gives life, namely God.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Pressure's Off

I recently finished The Pressure's Off, a book by Larry Crabb. I read it for my RTS class where we are looking at the topic of "sanctification by grace through faith" for a couple of weeks. As I mentioned in a previous post, God has used this book to uncover many areas in my life where I have not believed the gospel fully. And it has been so freeing! I'll point out the basic ideas of the book to help show you how I've been affected by it.

Crabb starts out describing that there are two ways to live. The first way to live is according to the Law of Linearity, which is figuring out what you want and then doing what it takes to get there. According to him, this is also called the Old Way or seeking the Better Life of Blessings. In the life of a Christian, this is using God to get what you really want: money, comfort, a spouse, good kids, etc. The pressure is on when living this type of life. You are always trying to do the right thing to get what you want.

A side note here. I look at a guy like Joel Osteen and obviously know that his "Best Life Now" theology is so wrong. But he has been a straw man for me. Of course he's wrong. He sounds ridiculous as he stands in front of his "congregation" each week explaining how God wants to bless them with good things if they would just be positive and have the right amount of faith. However, I'm learning that I've been conditioned to believe a similar lie and one that is much more subtle.

The second way to live is according to the Law of Liberty. This is the New Way. It is coming before God realizing your need and placing your satisfaction fully in Him, whether certain blessings come or not. Crabb points out that most of us live according to the Old Way without even realizing it. In subtle ways, we expect God to bless us at some point because of our behavior. We live according to Deuteronomy 29:9 which says "Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do." But Hebrews 7:17-19 reminds us that through Jesus "the former regulation is set aside...and a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God." The pressure is off.

Later in the book, Crabb says it this way:
“The law that came through Moses is now in our hearts. God’s arrangement with Israel--get it right and life will work--is nullified. But the law still stands. What’s different is that now we have an appetite for holiness; the requirements of the law are now our hearts’ delight. And we obey in order to enjoy fellowship with God, not to make our lives work.”
The Old Way even affects how we view suffering:
“When tragedy strikes, we so easily say, ‘I wonder what God is teaching me through this trial.’ Listen beneath that sentence to its motivation and you might hear something like this: ‘If I learn my lesson, I’ll be able to get it right next time so more trials won’t come.’ The Old Way is instinctual.”
And here's yet another quote that was helpful and gave me pause thinking about most preaching & teaching done in the church today:
“The reformers knew we were saved to glorify God. We moderns live to be blessed...We’re so committed to discovering and applying God’s principles for making life work that we no longer value intimacy with God as our greatest blessing.”
My key take-away from this book is understanding better that my motivation for obedience and holiness ought to be for fellowship with my heavenly Father...not a better life of blessings and comfort. I'm praying that God would continue to uncover areas in my life where I still believe the lie of "obedience=blessings." Instead I desire to treasure Christ more by resting in the gospel and hope in the only thing worth hoping in: intimacy with Him.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Greatest Gift I Can Give to my Fellow Christians

I ran across a really good quote on my friend Bert's blog a couple weeks ago. I've loved thinking about it and long to be this type of friend. It comes from A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent:
"The greatest gift I can give to my fellow Christians is the gospel itself. I love my fellow Christians not simply because of the gospel, but I love them best when I am loving them with the gospel! And I do this not merely by speaking gospel words to them, but also by living before them and generously relating to them in a gospel manner….

By preaching the gospel to myself each day, I nurture the bond that unites me with my brothers and sisters for whom Christ died, and I also keep myself well-versed in the raw materials with which I may actively love them in Christ….

We are all significant players in each other’s gospel narrative, and it is in relationship with one another that we experience the fullness of God in Christ. Hence, the more I comprehend the full scope of the gospel, the more I value the church for which Christ died, the more I value the role that I play in the lives of my fellow-Christians, and the more I appreciate the role that they must be allowed to play in mine."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Letting the Gospel Daily Transform Us

In my RTS class right now, we're looking at sanctification by grace through faith. Tonight as we walked through different passages, my heart was filled with joy seeing the wonder of the gospel afresh. God requires perfect obedience. I can't perfectly obey the law, though I often act like I can. Christ came and PERFECTLY obeyed the law. Think about that. As a baby. As a toddler. As a teenager. And as the most unjust crime in the history of the world was being perpetrated against him, there was no sin in Him. And not only am I forgiven for what I've done, for some reason I get the righteousness that Christ performed in His life. That doesn't make sense. And the affections of my heart are stirred again as I type wondering why God would ever do such a thing. It doesn't make sense. I do not deserve it. And that compels me to love God.

Through the couple books we're reading on the subject of sanctification and through the lectures, I see God revealing areas in my heart that are still wanting to believe that becoming holy is up to me and that God's approval of me is based on what I do or don't do. When people ask how I'm doing in my walk with God, I want to think about the spiritual disciplines of my life. How's my quiet time? My Scripture memory? My prayer life? Sure these can be indicators of some things, but I should really always think about how am doing at living in light of the gospel. The fact that I'm wicked, yet forgiven and loved. The fact that I have been adopted as a co-heir with Christ and am now a son, not a slave. Grace is training me to renounce ungodliness (Titus 2:12), not the law. And that is so freeing.

The professor shared a quote tonight that I thought was really helpful regarding all of this. It comes from a book called Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace:
"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification, although below the surface of their lives they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification, in the Augustinian manner, drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.

Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude. In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation. This means that they must be conducted into the light of a full conscious awareness of God’s holiness, the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ for their acceptance with God, not just at the outset of their Christian lives but in every succeeding day."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

David Foster Wallace on the Worship of Self

A friend recently sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. It's the transcript from a graduation speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. I thought it was extremely interesting and insightful. He talks about the self-centeredness that we all struggle with, the temptation to worship a lot of unfulfilling things, and the freedom that comes from self-forgetfulness and truly caring about others. Though I disagree with a few of his statements, I think he mostly is very perceptive and points us to a lot of truth. Here are the best parts of the speech:
Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it's so socially repulsive, but it's pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real -- you get the idea. But please don't worry that I'm getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called "virtues." This is not a matter of virtue -- it's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.....

...Thinking this way is my natural default-setting. It's the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stuck and idling in my way: It's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past and now find driving so traumatic that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive; or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to rush to the hospital, and he's in a way bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am -- it is actually I who am in his way. Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have much harder, more tedious or painful lives than I do, overall.

Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you're "supposed to" think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it, because it's hard, it takes will and mental effort, and if you're like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat-out won't want to. But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line -- maybe she's not usually like this; maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who's dying of bone cancer, or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Dept. who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a nightmarish red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible -- it just depends on what you want to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important -- if you want to operate on your default-setting -- then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren't pointless and annoying. But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship...

Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on...

...The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

John Mark McMillan

I've been listening to John Mark McMillan for the last few weeks and have really been enjoying his new CD The Medicine. He's a worship leader that has a refreshingly different style. He's less polished and his lyrics are much richer than a lot of stuff out there right now. Some of my favorite songs off the album are Death in His Grave, Skeleton Bones, Carolina Tide, and My Only.

Check out this video for his song, Death in His Grave:

Death In His Grave (Performance Video) from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus and bridge:
On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to be Truly Reformed

Ray Ortlund:
What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart—toward them or away from them?

If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one—in Christ alone.
Read the whole thing

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What is the Bible Really About?

Tim Keller explains what the Bible is really about:(via)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Garrett sings "Beautiful"

Here's the full version of Garrett singing the Phil Wickham song "Beautiful" at his wedding a couple of weeks ago. So good. Sorry that it's a little shaky, especially in the middle. I was pretty much dancing in my seat:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Inventing Contexts for Diversion

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. 76:
“the crossword puzzle become a popular form of diversion in America at just that point when the telegraph and the photograph had achieved the transformation of news from functional information to decontextualized fact...Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, not they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Great songs from Garrett's wedding

I thought I'd post a couple videos from Garrett's wedding. Garrett sang the Phil Wickham song "Beautiful" as the bridesmaids came down (I think this is called the processional or something? I should probably know this by now). It was amazing. Here's a little taste of it as the crew is practicing:

Garrett Moore - Beautiful (practice) from David Wilhite on Vimeo.

Also, Evan wrote a new song specifically for the wedding. It was really good. Here it is:

Evan McHugh - Song for the Redeemed from David Wilhite on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Improve Seminary Education

Together for the Gospel asks a few noted seminary professors, "What one thing you would change about seminary education?" Here are two great responses:

Al Mohler:
"I would want to banish forever the idea that the mission of the theological seminary is to turn out newly minted professional ministers. Far too many Christians—and this includes many who should know better—think of the Christian ministry as a profession. Thus, they assume that a theological seminary is directly analogous to a medical school training physicians or a law school teaching those who will be attorneys. The idea that ministry is a profession is disastrous. The very idea of a profession is alien to the minister’s calling. Central to the concept of a profession is the idea that there is an identifiable body of knowledge and a profile of expertise that, once mastered, renders the candidate a professional. But, as the New Testament makes clear, there are persons who can master such knowledge and acquire the skill set and yet never be called nor qualified for the Christian ministry.

There is a body of knowledge to be mastered and a set of ministerial skills and practices to be developed, of course, but these do not a minister make. The ministry is a calling, and the most important qualifications for the Christian ministry are spiritual. We must aim for something far higher than the preparation of professionals, and our real challenge goes far beyond knowledge and skills.

In a similar and equally important vein, I would remind us all that seminaries, even at their very best and most faithful, can only do so much. The local church is the most important school for ministry and the faithful pastor is the crucial professor. The seminaries that serve best will be those who understand this."
Richard Pratt:
"If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.

Do you know what would happen? Very few young men would want to attend. Only those who had been called by God would subject themselves to this kind of seminary. Yet they would be recruits for kingdom service, not mere students. They would be ready for the battle of gospel ministry."