Thursday, December 17, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society. And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored.
Now, one would not expect the world to have much time for the weakness of the psalmists’ cries. It is very disturbing, however, when these cries of lamentation disappear from the language and worship of the church. Perhaps the Western church feels no need to lament — but then it is sadly deluded about how healthy it really is in terms of numbers, influence and spiritual maturity. Perhaps — and this is more likely — it has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing. Yet the human condition is a poor one — and Christians who are aware of the deceitfulness of the human heart and are looking for a better country should know this.
A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.
Indeed, the biblical portraits of believers give no room to such a notion. Look at Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and the detailed account of the psalmists’ experiences. Much agony, much lamentation, occasional despair — and joy, when it manifests itself — is very different from the frothy triumphalism that has infected so much of our modern Western Christianity. In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative? If not, why not? Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?
I did once suggest at a church meeting that the psalms should take a higher priority in evangelical worship than they generally do — and was told in no uncertain terms by one indignant person that such a view betrayed a heart that had no interest in evangelism. On the contrary, I believe it is the exclusion of the experiences and expectations of the psalmists from our worship — and thus from our horizons of expectation — which has in a large part crippled the evangelistic efforts of the church in the West and turned us all into spiritual pixies.
By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church. By so doing, it has implicitly endorsed the banal aspirations of consumerism, generated an insipid, trivial and unrealistically triumphalist Christianity, and confirmed its impeccable credentials as a club for the complacent. In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christian was so absurd as to be comical — and yet I posed the question in all seriousness. Is it any wonder that British evangelicalism, from the Reformed to the Charismatic, is almost entirely a comfortable, middle-class phenomenon?”
–Carl R. Trueman, from “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism (Christian Focus: 2004) pp. 158-160.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
The fine idea of separation of church and state (the U.S. government shall not establish a religion) does not equal public atheism - the rejection of the God of Scripture in our courts or schools or any other government entity. There are other options.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA;
Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Ambler, PA
Mortification of Spin - In combination with Aimee Byrd and Todd Pruitt, Trueman dialogues on topics crucial for the Christian Church. The link will take you to the ministry web page where you can find useful resources including their podcast which has been, for a while now, my favorite audio option. I truly look forward to tuning in to this threesome and am regularly disappointed when a broadcast ends. I wish they were longer. But they are indeed quite abbreviated.
The Creedal Imperative Explanation Video - Here's a short presentation on why creeds, confessions, and catechisms are so important and so useful to modern day Christians and their churches.
The Cornerstone Lecture Series - A five-part video series on the realities of the Christian life. The link here is to video #4 entitled "The Normal Christian Life." I think all five parts are worth your time but if you must choose only one I would go with #4. I say this due to my subjective but nevertheless experientially educated guess at what might be most beneficial to modern day American Christians. If you're not American and will hear only one presentation, then I suggest you begin at the beginning, with video #1 entitled Foundations.
Related to these YouTube resources are the many other videos to be found on the same website. There you can find many brief Trueman contributions relevant and critical to Christian understanding. This includes his thoughts on many common questions posed by believers. It also includes lectures on a variety of topics including Church History. For example, go here to watch him speak on Reformation catalyst Martin Luther, whom he calls a "troubled prophet." Weren't they all?
Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative - Since the American political bullshit is beginning to spin up as we enter the presidential campaign season, I commend Trueman's book addressing such things. Along with being unusually insightful, again, Trueman is wonderfully entertaining.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Friday, October 2, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
". . .that is upright serving of God, when a man does that which in his Word God has commanded to be done, every one in his own vocation, not that which he thinks good of his own judgment." - Martin Luther, from Tabletalk #112
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Second, we need to practice the art of listening and then thinking about what we hear. This is a form of biblical meditation. Personally, I find that an effort to hear well helps with this. I learn more by listening thoughtfully than by perusing the text while my pastor preaches.
Third, perhaps looking at and listening to our pastors and teachers is better for our learning than having our noses in our Bibles laying in our laps. It's good for us to be read to by another, to have the very words of God wash over us audibly.
And fourth, "Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ" (Ro 10). This is not only true for the lost who hear the gospel and believe. It is true for God's children whose faith is fed by their Father's words (Jesus says we should abide in them). As I remember hearing John Piper say, "Faith comes by hearing until you're dead."
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Here's the deal - The folks of the Church have had access to God's printed Word, that they could read for themselves, for a tiny percentage of the Church's history (I believe the Church began in Eden). But even if we trace the first days of the Church back to the first century AD (Pentecost), the percentage is still small. For most of the Christians who have ever lived in this world, the devotional life, as is commonly defined as including Scripture reading and/or study, was not an option. So how has God measured their faithfulness? I suggest two ways; the same two ways he measures mine, and yours.
The second mark is one's commitment to the Church - God's other people with whom we are one body, one flock, one bride, one building, etc. Christians have not always had personal copies of Scripture, but they have always had each other. And so I mention this as well.
The access believers have historically had to Scripture has been the preaching and teaching of believing pastors, prophets, and priests. For most of the Church's existence, it has pleased God to have His people ultra-dependent on the Bible teachers of their local congregations. I suggest that the pattern continues and the fact that we have access to our own copies of Scripture has not left us any less dependent on others for a right understanding of God's written revelation. Again, I think it's generally good that so many can so easily have access to God's Word. But an unhealthy side-effect of this has been to devalue the word ministries of God's particularly gifted and otherwise qualified spokespeople. The way saints of old showed devotion to Scripture was by listening to it preached and taught in their congregations and then praying to love and believe and do what they had heard. I believe this remains God's way for us today.
The Church matters. Churches matter. Jesus gave Himself for the Church and is returning for the Church. He is sanctifying the Church and preparing rooms in the Father's house for those who form the Church. The weekly gatherings of the Church congregations (which I would argue should normally occur on Sundays) are not optional events. They are actually mandatory, because they are needed. If only we could see how fragile we are as individuals, and how God has designed His Church to accommodate such weaklings, and to strengthen them.
So if you or I have a thriving devotional life, but are not committed to prayer and God's people, we are selfish, unbiblical, and less than fruitful. And I don't believe we will long stand the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Then I was flipping channels late one night and came across Bill Maher, the fool. He was in a discussion about God with some other foolish folks. And Maher said that faith was "a belief in nothing." He elaborated. He spouted with conviction that God cannot be proven. So faith in God is confidence in nothing. "Faith is nothing," he said. So Bill believes that the believers are the fools.
But faith is not nothing. Faith is something. It's the one and only something that will tie a person to their Creator redemptively. And, faith is rooted in visible evidence. Faith is reasonable. For example, it deduces that the complexity of the human brain did not evolve over hundreds of millions of years by chance. Faith has the sense to look around, consider the delicate functioning creation (including the brain), and reason back to the existence of a Life-Giver with a mind of His own (Ps 119; Ro 1; He 12).
Faith also looks inward, at conscience, and the innate moral code that exists across a world of various cultures. This is mostly what holds societies together. It's not the fear of governmental punishment, for example. It's the inward witness forbidding destructive behavior (Ro 2).
For the record, the Christian Scriptures, called the Bible, do not present faith as a leap into the darkness, but as the most sensible of conclusions, and a coming out into the light. A person cannot reason him or herself into trusting Christ alone as God the Son to cover all of his or her sins. That's saving faith, and it requires an act of God in which He opens the unbelieving heart and scatters the absurdity of self-reliance. But simple faith in one's Creator, that's just rational. It begins with what one can see and understands the visible as pointers to the Invisible. God has revealed Himself, generally in creation and conscience, but also savingly in Scripture and Jesus Christ.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
When I hear Romans 12 taught, the emphasis is almost always on the first two verses which contain instruction and activity for us. Then verse 3 informs us that God actually doles out the various degrees of faith to His various children. And the human author, the Apostle Paul, credits "the grace given to him" for his ability to offer Romans 12 information. A part of that information concerns our deep and abiding weaknesses and our need for God and others. And perhaps the most overlooked counsel in the text tells us that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think with sober judgement. . . What parent does this in regard to his/her children? It is true that in Romans 12 Paul has in mind a proper thinking of ourselves in relation to the quality of our faith and spiritual gifts. But spiritual gifts include natural abilities that God supernaturally employs. So perhaps this text has some further application to we parents as we consider the abilities of our little people (Cf Pr 22:6).
To think soberly doesn't mean to think badly of, unless of course our children are all bad. In a way, we're all all bad, in that we are sinners who, in our best moments, do not meet God's standard of a perfectly righteous performance. My point here, as I sit for a few moments and think about the reality of God and my desires for my children, is that the Bible calls us to sobriety, integrity, honesty, and accuracy when we are considering our little ones (or now young adult ones). It calls us to raise them in the fear of God, to train them in His righteousness, and to give them godly counsel for a lifetime. It does not call us to give ourselves idolatrously to their worldly success. It does not call us to live vicariously through the achievements we want for them. It does not call us to finance their foolish dreams of glory. It does not call us to be proud of their accomplishments in the flesh.
Romans 12:2 commands that we grow less like the world by acquiring a changed way of thinking and understanding. Yet we Christian parents are so often not only like the world but worse than the world because we tie God to our sinful aspirations, as though they were birthed in Him. How difficult it is to be Christian in America, where worldly success and entitlement is the air we breath. Our children should be safe with us. And they won't be if we are deceiving them. They cannot be and do anything they desire, no matter how they may apply themselves. And you and I are to be happy about this, because it is God's design. The best and lasting success is faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Let's strive to model and teach that.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Friday, June 19, 2015
|Van Til (1895-1987)|
[Anyone with such hair is worthy of
some measure of our attention]
Monday, June 15, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
I do think the book is worth reading for its content, yet I am suspicious of some of that content. In my way of understanding sinful Christian humanity, it seems to me that the goals set forth are perhaps unattainable. For example, in Chapter 20 titled "That the Father may be Glorified," in only one paragraph the author speaks of the Christian praying as being in perfect harmony with Him [God] and having our whole being consciously yielded to the inspiration of the Word and Spirit and our prayers bringing us into perfect unison with the Beloved Son in the wonderful partnership He proposes.
While I believe in God's ability to do such, I do not believe He does such. If I am wrong here I do pray He correct me. As of now, my understanding of human Christian sinfulness does not permit me to expect what Murray holds out as what ought to be the Christian experience in prayer.
My other concern is that the book overwhelms and discourages with its many demands for a certain kind of praying. Murray means to unpack Bible texts regarding prayer. That's good. That unpacking though has me wondering if I might ever pray for even five seconds in a way that pleases God. Murray offers so many demands that, to begin with, I can't keep up with them. I am through Chapter 20 of 31 chapters. I hope in the end Murray will offer a simplified summary that sets a sound trajectory for our praying and does not depress me.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
"Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of private prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall. This is the process which forms the lingering Lots, the unstable Samsons, the wife-idolizing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the pliable Jehoshaphats, the over-careful Marthas, of whom so many are to be found in the church of Christ. Often the simple history of such cases is this: they became careless about private prayer. You may be very sure men fall in private long before they fall in public." -- J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer, page 18
I am reading the booklet by Ryle. But if you want a free copy of the thing, get the pdf here.
Monday, May 25, 2015
|Readying themselves for big fun - swinging clubs and pulling triggers|
|At Crowder's Mountain State Park|
|Crowder's Mountain - on the lake trail|
|Tess and Joah - trail ready|
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Saturday, April 25, 2015
That blue book bag carries many memories for me; the kind that cause me to consider burning it. I am a Christian. So I ought to run all experiences through the pages of Scripture, and I attempt to do so. I am also a man, and not a strong one. So I often find it difficult to see through the pain to the meanings that make it bearable. It's terribly trying for me to look back over twenty-eight years and make meaningful sense of much of it. Some say we write our own story. I say that's largely bullshit (See Pr 16, for example).
Frankly, the past three plus years have felt like my Israeli captivity (Ne 1:1-3); my Potipharian prison (Ge 39:20); my Jeremiahan cistern (Je 38:6); my Asian burden (2 Co 1:8-10). Of course life could be made more burdensome. And it very well may be.
Perhaps the comfort and hope is that God is more than a governor, He's also a redeemer. And if we traced out the stories, ultimately Israel and Joseph and Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul can be said to have benefited from their afflictions. But they were still real afflictions that had to really be endured.
Two of my recent co-workers pressed me yesterday about the reasons for my lack of excitement regarding my soon approaching move and new work (I imagine my disposition gave me away). They called me a pessimist. I don't believe I'm a pessimist (Although I did tell them that excitement is for suckers). I think of myself more as a realist. And in reality, new things come with their own share of burdens. Moreover, they rarely deliver on the hype we might pour into them. Has anything ever positively been all that I thought it might be?
In addition, none of our earthly treasures are meant to be altogether or permanently satisfying. That's not their design. They are, after all, finite and fleeting. So for me to tie up in them an over-inflated (meaning idolatrous) hope, is foolish. I have a new work in a new place. Okay then. I hope to do some good. Time will tell.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
who has ever walked in this world.
This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own
what you have prepared?
Luke 12:20, From Jesus Christ, God the Son
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
While I am not against digital books, I am for paper books, partly because of what I think is a superior presence. I think it's better to have a Bible, for example, lying on the living room table than to have a copy saved on your Kindle or phone where it is essentially invisible. Your children don't see it, or handle it, or flip through its pages or draw on the blank filler pages. And you are not reminded by seeing it to fear God, Who like His book, is in the room. But perhaps that's just me.
My friend Adam has an online publishing house. I am commending it to you for some of the accessible, affordable, and helpful resources you can find there; and because since Adam is my friend, I want to see his business flourish. So please consider a visit here.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Friday, February 13, 2015
|Intense about tacos - Cool Ranch, beef and cheese only|
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Not only do prophets call people back, they push people out. This has always been the case, since Noah, "in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world" (He 11:7); to Joshua's, "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Jsh 24:15); to Samuel who, "warned the people solemnly and let them know what the king who would reign over them would do" (1 Sa 8:9); to Elijah who pressed upon God's people, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him" (1 Ki 18:21); to Isaiah declaring, "If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword" (Is 1:19f); to Jeremiah's being ordained "to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow" (Je 1:10); to Ezekiel's proclamation, "He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house" (Ez 3:27); to Hosea's utterance of God's announcement that, "Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Ho 4:6); to the oracle of Amos regarding God's judgment - "Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel. I will spare them no longer" (Am 7:8); to Malachi's message concerning God's choice - "I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness" (Ma 1:2f); to John declaring that, "Christ's winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Mt 3:12); to Jesus preaching that, "No one can serve two masters" (Mt 6:24); to the Apostle Paul telling the Galatians that, "Even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned" (Ga 1:8); etc.