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.