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, clich├ęs, 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.