29 December 2011

The Sunsets in West Texas

There are a lot of things about the weather in West Texas that can be rightly complained about, but the sunsets make up for most of them.  Here's one, taken tonight from my back porch.

13 December 2011

Family Photo Epic Fails

Here's proof there's no bad time to stop and take a family photo-


What Really Happened to AF447?

This is a fascinating account of what happened to Air France Flight 447.

Rarely do the comments to an article offer anything of value.  In fact, I almost never read more than a few anymore, as they are usually a waste of time.  However, this article is different.  Several experienced pilots and pilot trainers commented on the story, and this added a great deal to what I learned.

Fascinating.  And scary.

09 December 2011

I Think He Was Serious

Here's how to write a letter to the editor and make yourself look like a complete moron. The pic says it all-


HT: Richard Mann

08 December 2011

The $254 Million Man

I just posted this on FB (to the tune of Admiral Halsey by Paul McCartney)-

We're so sorry, uncle Albert,
We're so sorry that you've caused us any pain.
We're so sorry, uncle Albert,
But there's no one left at home
And I believe I'm gonna scream!

We're so sorry but we just heard you signed with them,
We're so sorry, uncle Albert,
But if you can't get any pitching
We sure won't give a dang!
It could have been better, but I was in a hurry.  Feel free to suggest more lyrics. 
Two hundred fifty-four million dollars, for swinging a big stick.  Who'da thunk it?

07 December 2011

Top Ten Book of All Time- And It's FREE Right Now

The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul is one of the top all-time books I've ever read.  Right now, for a short time, you can get a copy free for your Kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001C36CEW?tag=kiq-free-e-20 

Not a Lot of Posts These Days

I haven't been posting as many blog posts the last couple weeks.  I haven't had the free time to do so, and I'm not trying to generate a giant audience that daily postings require.  So please don't be disappointed that there's not something new here every day!

I've also been trying to wean myself off the internet a bit, as I have begun giving up reading time to browse the various blogs and whatnot that comes with blogging; I need to do less browsing and more reading.  As a result, I probably won't have quite as many links to post or funny videos to send you to.

Anyway, go find a good book and read it.

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Still, there were several hundred veterans of the event who were able to make the trip and commemorate the event with each other.


I honor these men, not as much for what happened to them as what they did with their lives subsequent to the event.  I've only met a couple of Pearl Harbor veterans in my life.  If you haven't met any, you'd better get busy, because they are getting fewer and further between.  (Aside: I've also met a Bataan Death-March survivor...even more rare these days.)

God bless 'em all!

29 November 2011

Black (and Blue) Friday

Google the phrase, 'black friday incidents' and start reading.

Gun control? I think shoppers should have to attend a two-day training course, sort of like a hunter-safety course, but for shoppers.  Maybe we could cut down on the injuries and criminal behavior.  It might be safer to go hunting with Dick Cheney than to go to Wal-Mart on black friday.

Sheesh!

23 November 2011

Family Time

Enjoying the evening; my sister and her family are here and Mom will be over in the morning.  Having a houseful of family is lots of fun!

Happy thanksgiving to everyone!

14 November 2011

Why We Didn't Hear About the Death of Dick Winters

I'm not unlike just about everyone who read Ambrose's books on WWII, or saw the mini-series Band of Brothers: Maj. Dick Winters is a hero in our eyes.  He was the longest-surviving officer of the 506th PIR, and died this past January at the age of 92.  I wrote about it here.

Almost no one heard about his death.  Here is a great article from the National Review on why.


Apologetics Study Bible Giveaway

I'm giving away a copy of the Apologetics Study Bible (HCSB version).  It is a brown, bonded-leather edition.

To enter, submit your name and email in the form below.  I'll randomly draw a winner on Saturday, Nov. 19th.


A Thought for the Day

"The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones."  -R. C. Sproul, from Knowing Scripture.

11 November 2011

11.11.11



 For all those who paid the penultimate price-






Then there's this.

10 November 2011

Happy Birthday, USMC!

 (HT: Sgt Grit)

Today is the 236th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. My hat is off to all who served, and especially today to those who wore the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

If you don't read the Sgt Grit Newsletter, you should.  It comes by email once a week, and is full of stories sent in by Marines of all eras.  Here's where to sign up for it.

Semper Fi!

08 November 2011

Sproul-Mates

I can't even begin to count the number of people I've met, many in the blogosphere, who have something in common with me.  We were all once stuck in some form of humanistic understanding of God, our theology peppered with nice phrases about God's sovereignty and authority, but in practical reality, we all acted as though we, and not God, were really sovereign.

Then something changed.

The thing that happened to all of us was an introduction to reformed theology.  Not the dry academic kind, but the gospel-focused, mission-oriented, God-glorifying kind.  We were introduced, often accidentally (of course, we now know it was providential, not accidental!), by faithful men proclaiming God's word in its fullness. There are many names that come up in these discussions and some appear much more commonly than others.  Names like Boice, Kennedy, Piper, Mahaney, Dever, Horton, Ferguson, and Mohler are usually mentioned. Lately I'm hearing more and more Chandlers and Chans, and even a few Driscolls. But there are two names heard more often than any other: MacArthur and Sproul. And Sproul is usually universally mentioned.

Sproul gets the slight edge most likely due to his ability to take complex doctrinal issues and make them understandable, all the while engaging us with edge-of-the-seat stories that are filled with gospel truth have made him the key figure in almost everyone's story that is like mine.



I know there's been a bit of a backlash against 'celebrity pastors' recently, and rightfully so.  But I've never heard Dr. Sproul's name mentioned as one of these, because he isn't a celebrity, he's a leader and a teacher.  He may be well-known, but he's well-known for reasons primarily focused around respect, not glamor.  And he's appreciated not because he has a famous face or a national radio program (he has both), but because he's a father-figure to so many of us who have come into the light of the reformed faith late (or lately) in our lives. I don't know how much longer Dr. Sproul will continue in active ministry, though I hope it is many years.  What I do know is, there are a great many of us 'Sproul-mates' out here who hold a tremendous appreciation and respect for Dr. Sproul for his faithful ministry over the last four-plus decades. It's really funny; who would have imagined a baseball player from Pittsburgh amounting to anything!













Thank you for your service, Dr. Sproul!

04 November 2011

Weird Al is Not Only Appropriate, He's Necessary

I mentioned to some of you that Wednesday was double-Palindromic Day (11-1-11 and 11-02-2011); the second only occurs every twenty thousand years, I've heard.

What I forgot to mention was one of my favorite Weird Al videos.  Fellow blogger Pete Scribner posted a link to the video on his blog...go watch it. It's funny, if you like ironic humor.

So Weird Al is necessary to fully enjoy the double-Palindrome day!



(I might add- Weird Al often bases his songs on oldies and recent pop hits...this one is no different.  For those of you under the age of about 40, he's spoofing a 60s singer named Bob Dylan.  Here's the video of the Dylan song that Weird Al took 'Bob' from.  Here's the video of a Dylan song that sounds much like Yankovic's Bob.)

You may not appreciate Weird Al's work as much as I do, but you can't deny he's a creative genius. (Each of these link to a video on YouTube.)

Weird Al as MJ in 'Eat It'-


Weird Al as 'Gump'-


Weird Al as a contestant in, 'I Lost on Jeopardy'-


Weird Al as Obi-Wan Kenobi in 'The Saga Begins' (one of his most creative works)-


Weird Al as an Amish in 'Amish Paradise'-



Weird Al as MJ in 'Fat'-

Once Upon a Time...

Jonathan Parnell wrote this story over on the Desiring God blog.  It was too good not to repost.  (Sorry, Rangers fans!)

03 November 2011

A Better Way to Handle The Question

I've lampooned Joel Osteen here several times, most recently over his mishandling of the question of Mormonism.  But I haven't given an alternative, mostly because I hadn't seen one in the media that was worth mentioning.  I still haven't seen one in the US media (imagine that!), but thanks to the Ref21 blog, I found a pastor doing a pretty good job of it in the British media.

Here's the link.

I especially liked his comment that we (humans) won't be going to heaven or hell in groups.  Our eternity depends on what we do with Jesus' question in Matt 16:15, "Who do YOU say that I am?" (emphasis mine)

01 November 2011

Real Beauty

I love this vid trailer-


A Thousand Words (Give or Take)

This is a blog post without much text.  I'll let the following pictures make their own statements.

On politics-




On TV- (HT: Dan Phillips)




On sports-




On sacrifice-



On culture-  (HT: Tim Challies)

31 October 2011

Two Views of October 31- One Thoughtful, One Fun

Today is both Reformation Day and Halloween.  In honor of the former, and in retrospect of the latter, here are two YouTube videos.

John Piper on Halloween.

Piper is introspective and balanced...well worth hearing in you have radicals on either side of the issue screaming at you.


Manic Monday Luther.

This one is just fun, but it is very much historically accurate.

HT: Dan Phillips, DG Blog

27 October 2011

Another Reason to Abandon the NIV 2011

Jim Hamilton (Southern Seminary) has this short article on one more reason why the NIV 2011 is just not the same animal as it's predecessor, the NIV 1984.  Here's the gist of his argument-

"...you could adopt the NIV 2011 as your Bible and it will lessen those 
unpleasant confrontations with things you don’t recognize from 
your own culture. After all, your culture is determinative, right?"


By the way, here's Dr. Hamilton's book.  I'm making my way through it slowly.  It's not a fast read, but it's a keeper.

21 October 2011

Thud!

If I recall, the world (according to Harold Camping) was supposed to end today, for the second time this year.  (One blogger called this the end of Camping's Reign of Error).  I guess it isn't midnight yet, but I wouldn't hold my breath.



The surprising part isn't, of course, the fact that we're all still here, the surprising part is how much the Christian blogosphere has completely ignored the day.  Maybe they are on eggshells and it will be all over the place tomorrow.  But I doubt it.  Kinda squirrely.



I think this is the thud heard round the blogosphere.  Or not.

Loyalty

Here's real loyalty- this is my 12-y-o daughter, Callie, being loyal to her Cardinals, amidst all the Rangers fans here in Texas.


HT: Coach Land for the photo!

19 October 2011

Free Book! World Tilting Gospel Giveaway

I have a free copy of Dan Phillips' book The World Tilting Gospel for a lucky reader.  This is the first time I've tried a giveaway on this blog, so hopefully all goes well.  Since I don't exactly have a giant audience yet, you have a pretty decent chance of winning!

I'll leave this open for a week or so, so get your entry in soon.




17 October 2011

NIV 2011 and Women

I've commented here in the past about the new NIV bible (NIV 2011) and why I don't like it.  Here is an interesting article by Mary Kassian.  It gives ten reasons, from a woman's perspective, of why the NIV 2011 is bad for women.

Here's a quote:  "Poor little girls. The translators need to change the words of the Bible so our feelings don't get hurt. Boo hoo. Women are so easily offended.  Sorry, . . . but changing the words of the Bible because you think some women might be offended by its language is downright patronizing."


16 October 2011

How 'Bout Them Cards!!

It's going to be a tough world series.  My family is all Cardinals fans, but we live in big-time Rangers country.  My youngest was only three when we left St. Louis, so he's the only one who's ambivalent about for which team to root; we'll see how it shakes out.

The Cardinals gear comes out this week.  We'll be unpopular down here, but some loyalties last forever!

GO CARDS!!!!

11 October 2011

Bounded Sets

This past Sunday, my SS class started chapter 2 of Galatians.  In the first section, we saw how important it is for us to confront changes to the gospel, while not being confrontational people over non-essential issues.



The Housewife Theologian posted a blog article today that explains very clearly this concept, along with a logical reason why it is both true and important.  She cites a lecture by Don Carson on how we should view fellow believers with whom we don't fully agree on all issues regarding our church practices.  Carson uses a 'sets' illustration from mathematics to create an image of orthodoxy. It was immensely helpful to me; I wish I'd seen it before the lesson last weekend.

Here's her post.

I highly recommend this blog.  You should be reading it regularly.  If you only have time for one blog, dump mine and read hers instead.  I bet she won't put scary math equations up, there.

10 October 2011

Not Creative, But Faithful

I love this paragraph from Michael Horton's The Gospel Commission:

We must never take Christ's work for granted. The gospel is not merely something we take to unbelievers; it is the Word that created and continues to sustain the whole church in its earthly pilgrimage. In addition, we must never confuse Christ's work with our own. There is a lot of loose talk these days about our "living the gospel" or even "being the gospel," as if our lives were the Good News. We even hear it said that the church is an extension of Christ's incarnation and redeeming work, as if Jesus came to provide the moral example or template and we are called to complete his work. But there is one Savior and one head of the church. To him alone all authority is given in heaven and on earth. There is only one incarnation of God in history, and he finished the work of fulfilling all righteousness, bearing the curse, and triumphing over sin and death.

Sometimes I think one of the biggest problems of evangelicalism in our culture is our own emphasis on individuality that leads us to all kinds of creative ways of expressing what we think the Bible teaches.  The problem with this is, we are fallen creatures and what we think the Bible teaches is more often than not flawed.  If we ignore the faithful witness of church history (and who even cares about church history anymore...we can't even respect a hymn if it was written more than sixty days ago!), we are not only prone, but defaulted, to err in our creativity.

We, as witnesses to Christ's kingdom, are not called to be creative, but faithful.  We absolutely cannot be faithful unless we are saturated in the Word (scripture) and diligent in the study of our history of thought.  Those who ignore their theological history are doomed to (heretically) repeat it.

09 October 2011

Finally, A Reformed Theolgian Speaks in the Panhandle

I had what I consider the privilege to hear Dr. Carl Trueman give four lectures on Martin Luther this weekend in Amarillo.  Dr. Trueman is the Academic Dean and Professor of History and Historical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.



Dr. Trueman is a gifted story-teller and fascinating speaker. We rarely get this caliber of reformed speaker here.  The Texas Panhandle is the heart of arminian theology (hey, TX is the state that produced Joel Osteen...to our shame).  There aren't any reformed seminaries in this area, and the only ones I know of down-state are extensions of bigger seminaries.  So it is a rare treat to have someone of Dr. Trueman's ability here.

Funny anecdote:  I gave Dr. Trueman one of my Wayland pens I had printed up with Luther's slogan, simul iustus et peccator.  He seemed to like it and told me it would end up on his, 'Luther artifacts' shelf in his office.  I find that funny, in a good sort  of way.

He has all the skills necessary to become a 'celebrity pastor'.  I don't think he'll be pursuing that pedigree, though.

07 October 2011

Wanna Have Nightmares?

Halloween draws nigh.  If you want to have really messed-up sleep for the next few weeks, watch this video clip.



(HT: Biblical Christianity blog)

06 October 2011

A Funny Feeling

Why do I get the funny feeling that the level and depth of theology in this book-



is no different than what's found in this video, which may or may not be of similar title by coincidence?

He Opened His Mouth

Sometimes adversaries are clever; one has to do his homework before he can find evidence of wrongdoing.  On the other hand, there's Joel Osteen.  It appears that no one need do any digging at all; in fact, all that needs to happen for there to be empirical evidence that Osteen has no clue what the gospel is, is for him to open his mouth.



I'm not looking for a fight here, but there's a serious problem when the pastor of the largest church in America is teaching something other than the gospel.  My Sunday School class is going through the book of Galatians right now, and we are just starting chapter 2.  We've seen something important in chapter 1, particularly with regard to getting the gospel right.

If you look at the combination of Paul's writings and information found in the gospels, it is easy to conclude that we are much better off preaching the right gospel with the wrong motives than we are preaching the wrong gospel with the right motives.  On the one hand, when the gospel is preached by those seeking gain, the apostles praised God, saying, "The gospel is preached!"  On the other, the purveyors of the wrong gospel are clearly in danger of condemnation to hell.

Here's more, if you need it:  Al Mohler's Blog

Barack Obama is not nearly the threat to the church in this country as is Joel Osteen.

03 October 2011

Living in West Texas

I found this short video on YouTube while doing some random searches.  It is an aerial view of parts of Amarillo along with some similar shots of the Palo Duro Canyon.  Most people think Amarillo is completely flat, and the city itself is.  But as soon as you leave to the north, you drive through the Canadian River breaks for an hour (all the way to Dumas) before you hit the high plains again.

The Palo Duro Canyon itself is the second largest canyon in the US (according to the State Park folks here).  It is about 20 miles southeast of Amarillo, and only 8 miles east of my house.



Of course, no post on this topic would be complete without a link to Jason Aldean's song, Amarillo Sky.  So here you go.

30 September 2011

Religion or Relationship?

I've often heard Christianity dichotomized into these two choices, with the right answer being, 'relationship' of course.  But that sentiment has always bothered me, particularly in light of James 1:26-7, and even 1 Tim 5:4 (and a few others, if you dig for them).

How about a tertium quid?*  Stephen Lutz posted this blog post over on the Gospel Coalition this morning, and it makes a lot of sense.  He says,

"Both religion and relationship capture helpful aspects of what 
Christianity is, but neither word is strong enough to fully encapsulate 
what Christianity is about. Only gospel can do that. The gospel alone is 
the power of salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16); no amount of 
our religious observance or relational feeling has the power to save."

His blog is about college ministry, but this make sense for ministry at any level.  Chalk one more up for gospel centeredness.

* literally,  the 'third this'...Latin for third option

29 September 2011

A Funny Thumbnail

I was reading Dane Ortlund's blog this morning and found a funny irony.  Dane had posted a song clip.  You just have to see what I saw in Google Reader to get it-



You can see from the truncated title why it got my attention!

28 September 2011

Credit Where It Is Due

I erred in not giving credit in my last post as to where I first saw the Voca People video.  I saw it on the Sola Gratia blog (Pete Scribner).  What's worse, Pete is a fellow St. Louis Cardinals fan, and one shouldn't steal stuff from a fellow Cards fan...it's been a hard year.  But we are happy tonight!!



Sorry for stealing your stuff, Pete!

23 September 2011

Singing on the Brain

While the Christian group Acapella (and here) was doing some stuff like this 25 years ago, the Voca People have taken it to a whole new level (albeit not Christian).

Enjoy it while you try to figure out how they do it.


22 September 2011

Where's the Gospel in Hater Vids?

Stephen Furtick, a 'pastor' of a large culturally-relevant gathering called Elevation Church, posted this video a while back.  It's as full of, if not more full of, hate than anything said by those he accuses in the video.

Finally, Frank Turk posted this video response.  It is tremendous.  Watch it, even if you choose not to watch the first one by Furtick (which really isn't bad advice).


16 September 2011

Christian Love vs Self-Love

Recently, the bumbling buffoon Pat Robertson, who calls himself a pastor, but is rather more a pester than a pastor, made an idiotic remark that a man was justified in divorcing his wife after she became ill with alzheimer's disease, and he was lonely.

I agree with another blogger: this is a repudiation of the gospel of Christ.

In contrast, watch this video about a man who left his job to spend all of his time with his stricken wife.



If there's any divorce to happen, it needs to be the divorce between the church as a whole and Pat Robertson (and all the other prosperity-gospel nuts like him).

I made the following comment in my Sunday School lesson last Sunday:  "Barack Obama is not nearly the threat to the church in America as is Joel Osteen."  I thought there might be some disagreement (you see, Obama isn't very popular here in Texas).  There was none.  The first comment I heard was, "Amen.  Preach it."

Now I think I'd be almost as correct to go back and re-state the comment with Robertson's name in place of Osteen's.

15 September 2011

How a Low View of God's Sovereignty Results in Bad Theology

Many years ago, the church I was attending offered a Wednesday-evening 'Bible study' course called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.  At the time, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about my faith and took the course.  Even then, in my immature state of faith, some of what the book taught seemed odd to me.  I couldn't put a finger on why, and certainly couldn't articulate the details of what was theologically amiss, but I know something didn't add up. 



Over the years, I've heard many good testimonies from people about the Experiencing God study, and I've not usually said much, good or bad, about the study.  But when asked my thoughts on it, I usually tried to steer people away.  Over time, I started to figure out some of the theological details that were amiss, but hadn't really developed a full big-picture view of why an otherwise orthodox believer such as Blackaby could come up with such illogical teachings.

I think I'm starting to understand why now.  I think the biggest problem is a view of God which makes him less than the sovereign God that he is.  It turns him from the creator of the universe into a little guy sitting on your shoulder whispering suggestions into your ear. I know that Blackaby would deny that he belittles God and would certainly not appreciate the caricature I just made, and like almost everyone who practices a low-view of God, would say that he holds God as sovereign.  But in practice, and as his books teach, he does not.

A recent pair of blog posts over on the Pyromanics blog has helped me put 2 and 2 together on this topic.  Here's the first post, and here's the second.  Dan Phillips spells out the details much better than I can, so read them both (especially if you've ever done the E-G study or were tempted to buy the book these are posted about).  Here's a quote from the second post summarizing the problem-

"After pro forma niceties about Scripture, the Blackabys assure Christians that what 
they really need for a dynamic, personal, God-pleasing relationship is not to be found 
there. They would send them on a lifelong rabbit chase for which Scripture can offer 
no guidance, because it envisions no such pursuit."

If you want a testimony to what kind of damage the Blackaby theology can cause, read this.

My guess is, there are thousands of other stories out there about how this kind of unbiblical thinking has steered people astray.

Our focus cannot be on experientialism. It must be on the study of God's word instead.  Our faith has a content; a focus.  That focus is Jesus Christ.  We cannot have faith in something ethereal.  We have faith in Christ, and we therefore must know something about the character and nature of Christ.  The only place we legitimately get that is from Holy Scripture.  Any other source of revelation can at best point toward Him; it cannot explain Him.  Many of these other sources will point elsewhere. 



They are like the 7'4", 320 lb. woman.  This is a photo that was circulated a few years ago on the internet.  It was photoshopped, of course, but this was before many people know about the abilities of editing software.  It fooled a lot of folks because it was just odd enough (and interesting enough) that they chose to believe it.  Now, there's no real harm (I suppose) in believing in seven-foot women.   But there is indeed real harm in believing bad theology.  R. C. Sproul spells it out very well in one of his Renewing Your Mind broadcasts- being mistaken in your theology is sin.

So be careful where you choose to get your theology.  Other than natural revelation, most everything else other than Scripture will look good, have some esoteric appeal, or be touted by a hot-shot celebrity, but will not be what it claims to be.   Of this we are explicitly warned in Scripture.

Rushing Through the Reading

Michael Kelley posted a caution on rushing through a one-year Bible reading plan (taken from Spurgeon and augmented).  I agree.  I tend to either rush to keep up, or skip taking the time I need to take to ask and answer questions and meditate on what I'm reading when I follow a one-year Bible reading plan.

For this reason, I came up with a 180-week (that's three-and-a-half years) Bible reading plan.  It moves slow enough I can stop to ask questions (and answer them) as needed.  If I knew how to attach a copy to this blog, I would.  As it is, I don't know how to do that, or how to upload the file to a web server and link to it. (Where's a teenager when you need one?)

Not knowing how to do this makes everything below an experiment with a high probability of (as my boys would say) an 'epic fail'.  But I'll try anyway.

If this works because I'm lucky, here are two files.  The first is a PDF file of a generic bible reading checklist.  The second is an MS Excel file of my 180-week reading plan.  (I like the Excel version the best for printing...it is easier to format to fit on a page.)

File 1- PDF generic Bible reading plan


File 2- MS Excel file- Time, Times, and Half a Time


I sure hope these work.  If the links don't work, send me a comment saying so, and I'll try plan B (when I think of what it might be).  If they do work, send me a comment saying so, and I'll try to remember how I did this the first time for the next time it happens.

08 September 2011

When Writing Seems Futile

I've been digesting quite a few of the bloggers' takes on the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  I've tried to think of something wise or useful to add to the discussion, but remembering back to what I was thinking on that day, I really don't think I have anything to say that would raise the bar for anybody.  It seems futile to try to make sense of the events even ten years later, at least in a communicable way that people can understand and appreciate.

If I can think of something beneficial to add, I'll post it Sunday.  If you don't see anything here, I couldn't.


07 September 2011

In My Seat

Here's a short video of a Pilot, Steve Schiebner, who was supposed to be flying AA Flight 11 on September 11, 2001.  Another pilot took his place.  Incredible story.


02 September 2011

Secularization as a Christian Heresy

“Secularization—that is, the gradual conformity of our thinking, beliefs, commitments, and practices to the pattern of this fading age—is not just something that happens to the church; it is something that happens in the church.  In fact, it’s difficult to think of secularism as anything other than a Christian heresy.” 

When I read Michael Horton, the going is usually slow, and every couple pages, I have to put the book in my lap, lean my head back, and think.  The above quote is from the introduction to his recent book, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God's Strategy for Making Disciples.

It shall be an interesting read.

01 September 2011

Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal

Here is a link to the book trailer (or click through below) for a new book coming out in few months by Canyon, TX native (and current Nashville resident) Michael Kelley.

The Kelley's two-year-old son Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia; this is the story of what it was like to live in and battle through those days, and how the grace of God was revealed to them in diverse ways through the process.

Michael has preached in my church on numerous occasions, and is the real deal...I can highly recommend this book even though I haven't seen a copy yet because I know Michael and know his strength of character and love for the Lord.

Run, don't walk, to get this book when it is available.


23 August 2011

How To Be A Legitimate Continuationist

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples." (Jn 8:31, HCSB, emphasis added)

It's about the word, not the gifts.

(More, later.)

19 August 2011

Sola Mortalis (Justification by Death Alone)

As R. C. Sproul has pointed out in numerous places, the prevalent belief in America today about the mode of justification is not sola fida, nor is it justification by works, or some combination of the two.  It is in fact sola mortalis, or justification by death.  That is, the only thing most people believe is required to be ushered into the glory of heaven after we die is to, well...die.

How did this come to be so?  Where did our culture adopt such a non-biblical idea of justification in the face of contrary claims of scripture and of pretty much every church, conservative or liberal, up until very recently?

I think it is the innate humanism that resides in the heart of all of us.  We continually walk away from the stated claims of the gospel and back into our natural state of, I-can-do-this-for-myself.  It is the antithesis of the gospel to rely on ourselves for our own justification, yet it is our natural tendency.  As one author put it recently, we don't need heretics in the church to pull us away from the gospel...all we need is a good night's sleep.  Our natural character (fallen souls) pull us away from the gospel unless we are continually reminded of what it says and what it means.

So what conclusions can we draw from this, given it is true?

One, we need fellowship with other believers.  Christianity is not a go-it-alone religion, as going-it-alone usually results in a therapeutic religion rather than a relationship with Christ.

Two, study of history, particularly historical theology and church history, is critical if we are to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.  It seems like anytime a new controversy turns up in Christianity, its not long before someone points out that this controversy has happened before, and was dealt with by some council about fifteen-hundred years ago.  As G. K. Chesterton once said, 'The wit of man is insufficient to invent a new heresy.'  I think he's right.

Three, we need to hear solid biblical exposition, especially from our pulpits on Sunday mornings.  Deistic therapeutic moralism won't cut it.  (Yes, I renamed that...see this post for why.)  We need to hear the word of God and see the Word of God in our worship.  In many places, that's not happening.

Four, we must always reforming.  We must constantly test ourselves against what orthodox Christianity has always believed and be less enamored with innovation and more enamored with faithfulness.  God doesn't change.  Why is it that we always desire change, even when change isn't warranted?

Five, we need to stop talking about justification as sola mortalis.  This is the hardest for many of us, especially if we have family and friends who are not believers. If you spent much time on my blog, you know of the respect I have for the US Marine Corps.  They are all honorable men.  Yet there is a common belief, spoken openly amongst Marines, that when a Marine dies, he goes to guard Heaven's gates.  Even Marines need Christ if they hope to guard Heaven's gates.  I pray they all heard the gospel, but I fear it is not so.  We can't continue to talk like semper fidelis is the same thing as sola fide.  (Though I'm sure that is a tradition that will not change.)

And six, in order to accomplish number five, we need to start talking about these things before someone dies.  We need to proclaim the good news of Christ- sola gratia through sola fide, and why it is vitally important (pun intended).  And in conjunction, we need to keep praying for those we know who are not believers, so that when they come to faith in Christ, we can rejoice with them that they no longer hold the view of sola mortalis.

17 August 2011

A Factor of Twelve

A year or so ago, one of the earlier blog posts in this blog was about jumping into the world of Kindle.

I've just discovered an empirical bit of information of some interest, since I've been reading Tim Challies wonderful book, The Next Story.  The information is-

       I acquire books on my Kindle at twelve times the rate at which I read them.

Do the math.  I average reading about three books a month (shameful, I know, but I have four kids at home and a real job I have to do).  That means I'm acquiring about 36 books a month.  In just five years, I'll have 2160 books on the Kindle, but I'll only have read 180 of them.  (In case my wife reads this, about 8 out of 10 of the books are acquired for free, by paying attention to publisher's tweets on Twitter, and the rest are under $2, by paying attention to a couple of free/cheap book blogs on Google Reader.)

I either need more time for reading, or need to stop acquiring books so quickly.

Depressing.

10 August 2011

Harry Potter...Who Woulda Thunk It?

Was all the brouhaha over Harry Potter over the last ten or twelve years a tempest in a teapot?  Or was it something worse, an example of law-based parenting over gospel-based parenting, and the legalistic foundation therein?

Jerram Barrs has this fascinating review (on YouTube) of the last book and movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

J. K. Rowling a Christian. Who woulda thunk it?

Why Is My Church So White?

Here's a very moving post from the Gospel Coalition blog...it is worth the read.

08 August 2011

Why Theology Shouldn't Be, and Can't Be, Boring

Carl Trueman posted this blog entry on why we must fire boring teachers and preachers (taken from his recent sermon on 1 Timothy 1).

Now, I'm a Sunday School teacher.  Something like this can be threatening to someone like me.  Yet it is important that I not run away from the threat.

I fear that I often vacillate between the two extremes- being interesting without saying much, and saying a lot, dryly.  The first I'll call the Obama effect.  He is a very interesting speaker, but when you listen to the words, he doesn't say much.  (But then, most politicians don't...that's not necessarily a personal problem for the President.)  The second I'll call the Pinhead position.  Most pinheads (dry academic types) really do know their stuff, but they make everyone with whom they come in contact very uninterested in their stuff by the way they present it.

There's a third way- I'll call it the Reagan method (sorry, no clever alliteration there...suggestions welcome).  Ronald Reagan could say a great deal of meaningful things in a most concise and efficient manner, and do it in an engaging and fascinating manner.  He wasn't called, The Great Communicator for no reason. That's how I need to do what I do on Sunday mornings, and if Trueman is right, that's how our pastors should be doing what they do.

But let's not get Descartes before the horse*.  I'm not suggestion that I (or your pastor) come up with a false method of engaging the respective audience for the purpose of being interesting.  And that's not Trueman's point either.  The point is, doctrine (what the scripture is telling us about God) should be engaging and interesting by its very nature.  Here's how Trueman puts it in his blog-

"...making providence...as dull as ditch water is false teaching as sure as open theism is."

I've been trying to establish the principle for a couple months in our SS class this summer.  We've taken a short break from our expositional book study to look at some theology.  Specifically, we are looking at the attributes of God, both communicable and incommunicable, trying to get a better understanding of God's nature and character.  I keep telling my folks that this is a worthwhile endeavor, and is God-honoring.  I think most of them agree, but a few have dropped off the map the last couple weeks.  I don't know if it is due to last-moment-summer-vacation-before-school-starts, or the sometimes dryness of the topic.  You see, I'm not John Piper, and I can stumble over this material and not communicate the passion I have for it if I'm not careful.  That's unfortunate, because this can tend to make the material less engaging to the average SS student.

I continue to pray that all of us would find the character and nature of God a thing that fascinates us.  Because if it bores us, we need a serious (as it were) check-up from the neck-up.

____________
* For those of you who didn't take a philosophy class, his name is pronounced, "Day-cart".  My mixed metaphor comes from this old joke-

One day a man wandered in to his veterinarian's office and asked about having his horse put down.  

"Why," asked the vet.  

"Well, he won't pull my milk cart any more."  

"How's that?", asked the vet.  

"He's an unusual horse," the milkman explained.  "He loves to read philosophy.  Instead of dangling a carrot from a stick to make him go, I'd just tie a book by Thales or Hume or Sartre on the stick and he'd follow wherever I lead.  But now, he wont' move."  

"Let's take a look," said the vet. Upon examining the setup, the vet said, "I think I've found the problem."

"What is it?" asked the milkman.

"You've got Descartes before the horse," explained the vet.

[rimshot]

29 July 2011

Why Do Youth Stay in Church?

We've talked about why youth leave the church on this blog several times (here, here, and here).

But why do they stay?  Jon Nielson gives this review and three critical points about why...every youth pastor in the country ought to reflect on these points, even if briefly.

1. They are converted.
2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
3. Their parents preach the gospel to them.

How Could God Ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son?

I've heard this one thrown around a lot of different ways, and most often as a criticism of God and His character.

Nancy Guthrie has a very good post on the Gospel Coalition blog today- "How Could God Ask That?"

Here's a quote-  "Why would God ask Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice? Is God trying to teach us that we should be willing sacrifice what is most precious to us? No. This story is not recorded to inspire sacrifice to God. Instead, it paints in vivid colors the sacrifice of God. The point of this story is not to convince you that you must be willing to sacrifice to God what is most precious to you, but rather to prepare you to take in the magnitude of the gift when you see that God was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to him—his own beloved Son—for you."

Kinda changes the perspective, no?

26 July 2011

Jimpressions

This guy is impressive.  No, I'm not talking about his impressions...memorizing that much Shakespeare is impressive!


22 July 2011

"Romantic Pornography"

Catchy title, not what you think.

The Gospel Coalition blog ran this article by Betsy Hart today.  It was a very interesting look at another way culture tries to influence our children, particularly our girls, away from the biblical model of dealing with one another gracefully.  Yes, we know how culture pulls at boys.  But are we aware of the ways it tries to influence our daughters?

Here's a quote-

"Mainstream culture tolerates this insidious expectation for men to act like women. Any doubts? A married couple goes to a counselor, Christian or otherwise. The husband is steeped in sexual porn and dissatisfied with his wife. Is there a chance the counselor is going to encourage the wife to act more like the women her husband finds attractive online? Of course not.


Now let’s say she’s steeped in romantic films and dissatisfied with her husband. There’s an almost 100 percent chance the counselor will encourage the fellow to be more romantic and sensitive. Which might be a fine thing, except that typically it will be “sensitive” according to his wife’s definition, even if that’s not what he is wired for."

That's just a teaser...read the whole thing...it is worth the time.

21 July 2011

More, "I Feel..."

I just read this blog post over on Housewife Theologian.  I wish I had it a couple days ago when I was writing the first installment of, "I Feel...".

Dorothy L. Sayers

Read Amiee's post, and pay particular attention to the Dorothy Sayers quote in the middle.  It is a good synopsis, though written before much of the I Feel movement, of why I Feel doesn't cut the mustard.

Good stuff.

20 July 2011

Some More on Age-Segregation in the Church

I've posted on this topic, age-segregation in the church, in both April and August of 2010.

Now, Tim Challies has posted this very interesting review of a movie made by a group opposed to age-segregation in churches.  Its a great example of how to take a good idea and add an 'ism' and make it a bad philosophy.

It is also clear from the comments posted after Tim's article that a lot of people think the division of the church by age is a bad idea.  I agree.  But dividing the church over a division in the church is also a bad idea.  Making age-integrated church an exclusive thing, with no separate programs ever for kids, teens, moms, middle-aged vegetarian lego-lovers, etc., is a form of legalism* that will be as destructive, long-run, as teen-exclusive worship services have been in the recent past. 

It was also a nice eye-opener to me about how things I say could be taken to an extreme, even unintentionally.  We all have a bit of that fundamentalist thought pattern rooted into us, even liberals, and I'm no different.  So I hope what I've said about this in public isn't so extreme as to make it a test of faith or fellowship.  Its not.  It is important, but not a test of faith or fellowship.

All things in moderation, as they say.


*Legalism- making firm prohibitions where there are no biblical prohibitions...R. C. Sproul's definition.

19 July 2011

"I Feel..."

I've noticed a trend lately (past few years or so) that is a reflection of our society, and not a good one, I fear.  While it isn't all that new a phenomenon, it may be growing.  I was grading position papers (essays, essentially) for one of my online courses, and noticed an uptick in how often the word 'feel' is used when cognitive processes are intended.  Instead of writing, "I think..." or, "I believe...", the students more and more write, "I feel...".

Now some of you might find this innocuous and my pointing it out to be a bit picky.  But it is a reflection of how our society emphasizes emotionalism over rationalism; pleasure over principle.  I read a recent survey (sorry, lost the link) where a bunch of folks were given an ethical dilemma and asked how they'd solve it given no other information.  A large majority picked, "the solution that would make them happiest".

I've heard some complain that this is a symptom of what they call, "The Chickification" of culture.  Maybe, maybe not.  Its true that women express emotion more readily and more often than men (in general).  But its not true that men are without emotion.  I don't find in general that women are less likely to use cognitive processes to solve problems, though I can't say I always understand the cognitive process they do use. (I hope I'm not being unfair to my wife here!)  What I find to be true is, certain people use emotions to make decisions and certain people don't (at least, not as much).  In other words, our ability to think and reason, and how we are taught to do these things, is more important than our gender, though gender has an effect.

Emotions always have some impact on decisions, and indeed are a necessary part of the cognitive reasoning in coming up with a solution.  But when logic is disregarded in order to do what feels best, poor decisions are often the result.  This is true whether the decision maker is a man or a woman, even when the display of the emotions are handled differently.  Emotional considerations are important in making decisions, but facts are critical.


As for my students, I've considered posting in my grading rubric that I'll take off a point every time the word 'feel' is used (unless it is referring to a sensory input, of course), but that might be too harsh.  I don't know if I have time to comment on it every time it happens, or if I did, how much a difference it would make in society.  I suppose every little bit helps.  I've always believed (not felt!) that part of my job as a professor is to teach people how to think, not just what to think, and to teach people to communicate what they think effectively.  (Say what you mean, mean what you say, etc.)

More philosophically, I wonder how much less a political issue we'd have with things like government control of health care, or so-called gay marriage, or the reality of hell (as a recent hot topic) if people primarily thought instead of felt about the issues.

Reftagger