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Showing posts from May, 2008

Truth

Today, we pick up in chapter three of The Courage to Be Protestant. This week's chapter is simply entitled "Truth."

David Wells spends the first half of this chapter showing how people have become terribly disconnected in our postmodern world. Although we have achieved lightning-fast communication, new technologies for social networking, and unprecedented choices and material comforts, we have somehow lost our "transcendent point of reference" (p. 61). All sense of tradition, virtue, and value has been lost. The essential roles of craft, community, and family, in shaping a person have been replaced by mass production, urbanization, and empty individualism.

This is what David Myers calls the "American paradox" - that we have so much, and yet so little. People are wealthy, but all alone. And this "self into which all reality has contracted is now empty and insubstantial but tinged with the sacred" (p. 69). In other words, people are searching fo…

Sweet fellowship

I won't be blogging on the next chapter of The Courage to Be Protestant until Friday. Over the past 24 hours, I took an unplanned trip to see John Pham, IMB missionary, who is briefly here in the States.

John and his family are currently in language school in Costa Rica, but because of his dad's poor health, John made a quick trip to California to spend a few days with his dad and sisters. This morning and afternoon, I had the privilege of visiting and praying with John and his family, and just fellowshipping with John.

Our church first met and "adopted" the Phams a little over a year ago, at the Missions Appointment Service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland. Since that time, it's been a privilege to grow better acquainted. Through their blog, phone, email correspondence, we've been able to vicariously experience many of the joys and trials of missionary life. It's especially been good for our church to partner together and pray more specifically for s…

Freedom isn't free

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

- "No, Freedom Isn't Free," by CDR Kelly St…

Timeline maker

I spent some time last night tinkering around with a free timeline maker called "Mnemograph." It's currently in beta, and has some interesting features like the ability to import RSS feeds, web images, and Wikipedia information right into your timeline.

I'm mostly interested in the program for biblical research and teaching. I would love to be able to create professional-looking timelines for handouts or PowerPoint, without spending a ton of time. Mnemograph has a lot of potential, but after spending almost two hours on the program, I would say it needs a lot more development and bugs worked out before it would really be useful to the average teacher.

You can view the timeline I created of Ezra & Nehemiah by clicking here.

Christianity for sale

This week, we come to chapter two of David Wells' book The Courage to Be Protestant. This chapter is titled "Christianity for Sale." Having given a basic overview of evangelicalism in chapter one, Wells now hones in on the "marketer" or "seeker-sensitive" church movement.

Wells says that marketers try to operate the church much like a corporation runs its business. In this case, the church is the supplier, attenders are the consumers, and the gospel is the product for sale. Traditional ways of "doing church" are proving to be no longer effective, so like any other business, we must be willing to adapt our image and repackage our product to regain consumer confidence. In a rapidly-changing, image-driven culture, that means adopting new methods like upbeat music, entertaining videos, therapeutic chats, inspiring drama, relaxing coffee houses, slick advertisements, and an open and affirming atmosphere to reach a whole new generation. Some of th…

Free magazine subscription

I like free stuff, and right now Matthias Media is "giving away 500 FREE subscriptions to our monthly magazine, The Briefing, to North American readers. No obligation. No cost. Posted to you totally free. We just want you to get to know us a bit better, and this seems like a good way to do it." Click here to subscribe. I suspect these 500 copies will go fast. (Thanks to Tim Challies for this tip.)

I've been very impressed by Matthias Media as I've gotten to know them better over the last year. Our church has started using their evangelistic method called Two Ways to Live, and I've enjoyed reading their new blog, the Sola Panel. I'm sure their magazine will continue their reputation for sound biblical teaching.

Quirky sports teams

Here's a fun list of quirky sports teams compiled by humorist John Kinde. Let the puns begin!

- A cricket team with a vitamin C deficiency — The Rickety Crickets
- A team of spendthrifts who like to max out their credit cards — The Sans Dinero Chargers
- Texan hot air balloon racers — The Ballast Cowboys
- A team of cooks from Kansas — The Kansas City Chefs
- A team of sluggards from Wisconsin — The Green Bay Slackers
- A team of forest navigators — The Oak Land Radars
- A team who uses second-hand uniforms — The Old Jersey Nets
- A team of barbers from LA — The Los Angeles Clippers
- A racecar team of drug junkies — The Speed Racers
- A basketball team of stock market investors — The Chicago Bulls and Bears
- A fishing team of geometricians — The Right Anglers
- An olympic team of Polish athletes — The Pole Vaulters
- A skating team who lives dangerously — The Thin Ice Skaters
- An olympic team of small golfers — The Short Putters
- An equistrian team of underwear models — The Jockeys
- A body b…

Gay marriage in California

Fox News has just reported,
The California Supreme Court overturned a ban on gay marriage Thursday, calling such a prohibition unconstitutional and paving the way for California to become the second state where gay and lesbian residents can marry.
In the 4-3 decision, Chief Justice Ron George wrote for the majority that domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage.In striking down the ban, the court said, "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation — like a person's race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."This is very disappointing. At the same time, we can be thankful that ProtectMarriage.com ha…

The lay of the evangelical land

Today, we begin blogging through The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells. If you're reading along, you'll want to read the preface and chapter one for today's discussion.

My first comment is actually about the dust jacket. Does anyone know what this is a picture of? Is it a set of ladders pointing into the sky, symbolizing our vain attempts to reach God? Is it a piece of postmodern art, representing the postmodern worldview of our age? Am I reading way too much into this? Oh well, let's get into the book...

Chapter one is called "The Lay of the Evangelical Land," and Wells' opening statement is really a summary of the whole book: "It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant. After all, millions have done so throughout the West. They are not in any peril. To live by the truths of historical Protestantism, however, is an entirely different matter. That takes courage in today's context" (p. 1). How interesting. We're told right away th…

ESV Study Bible

From the ESV Study Bible website:
"The ESV Study Bible was created to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way—to understand the timeless truth of God’s Word as a powerful, compelling, life-changing reality. To accomplish this, the ESV Study Bible combines the best and most recent evangelical Christian scholarship with the highly regarded ESV Bible text. The result is the most comprehensive study Bible ever published—with more than 2,750 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources.With completely new notes, maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, and articles, the ESV Study Bible was created by an outstanding team of 93 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers. In addition to the 757,000 words of the ESV Bible itself, the notes and resources of the ESV Study Bible comprise an additional 1.1 million words of insightful explanation and teaching."This study Bible looks terrific. I already like the MacArthur Study Bible, but I expect every Christian would really ben…

Desert flowers

The desert often appears dry, barren, and inhospitable, but in the springtime, it can explode with color. This has been a great year for wildflowers because we had several good rains over the winter.

As the weather has gotten warmer, many flowers have already withered. It's a dramatic reminder that "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Pet. 1:24-25).

Thankfully, before the flowers died, I was able to get some good photos for this slideshow. Two of these shots were taken by my Aunt Shay, two by Natalie, and the rest I took myself. If anyone knows the identity of the untitled yellow bush, I would love to know.

Moms are priceless

A recent study by Salary.com showed that if a stay-at-home mom could be compensated in dollars for all her labor, her salary would be $117,000 year. I'm not surprised. After all, every mom is a teacher, a dietitian, a cook, a house cleaner, an accountant, a dish washer, a landscaper, a nurse, a grocery shopper, a laundry cleaner, a manager, a babysitter, a counselor, and a chauffeur. (I'm sure we could add many more duties to this list.)

The book of Proverbs says, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels" (Prov. 31:10). The same applies to mothers as well. Moms might be worth $117,000 from a strictly economic perspective, but spiritually, they are priceless.

Moms are incredible. I'm thankful first of all for my own mom, who helped raise me in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 4:4). And more recently, I've been thankful for my wonderful wife, who is an awesome mommy to our children. It's a job I don't envy, but …

How's your prayer life?

How’s your prayer life? Mine can be pretty pathetic. I have good days, and I have bad days – probably more bad ones that good ones. Why? Because I lack self-discipline. Because I have misplaced priorities. Because I care more about the approval of man than the approval of God. Because my heart is often cold and apathetic. Because I feel overwhelmed by the seemingly urgent demands of life and ministry. Because in the prayer closet I suddenly struggle with “attention deficit.” Because I have much indwelling sin in my heart. Because I have an Adversary who is committed to prayer prevention. Because I can think of a thousand reasons to procrastinate.More than likely, many of you struggle with prayer, too. D. A. Carson writes, “What is both surprising and depressing is the sheer prayerlessness that characterizes so much of the Western church. It is surprising, because it is out of step with the Bible that portrays what Christian living should be; it is depressing, because it frequently coe…

It's time to read

A few weeks ago, I announced I would be blogging through David Wells' new book The Courage to Be Protestant and invited you to go on this journey with me.

I know that several people from our church are planning to read the book, and I ordered some copies from Amazon. They shipped last week and should arrive any day. So, I think we are finally ready to begin. Anyone else reading this blog is welcome to participate in our online "book club" as well. The book is divided into seven chapters, and we will read one chapter per week.

For next Wednesday (May 14), please read the Preface and Chapter One: "The Lay of the Evangelical Land." I will post a blog that day giving a short summary and a few of my thoughts on the chapter. Then, you will be encouraged to share in the comments section a favorite quote or something that struck you.

Here are a couple endorsements of the book to whet your appetite:

"This book has profound and far reaching implications for the church. …

Leading with love

Tony Kummer posted an excellent article last Friday on choosing "hills to die on," and how we need to conduct church ministry in a spirit of love. Here's an excerpt:
I remember a time when I thought any accommodation was equal to compromise. I don’t mean preaching a soft Gospel. Rather, I was worried about third and fourth tier theological issues...This attitude would be bad enough if I were an apologist, but when the context for ministry is the church it could get ugly fast. Yes, churches need brave pastors who will stand up for the truth. But without love, I’d only be making noise or burning without profit. (I Cor. 13:1, 3)You can read the whole thing here.

For an in-depth study on the importance of love in church leadership, I highly recommend Leading with Love, by Alexander Strauch. This is one of the best books I've ever read, and should be required reading for every church leader. In fact, I wish every Christian would read and apply this book. What a difference i…

What should I do with all this money?

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21). The spiritual maturity of a man can be pretty accurately measured by how he spends his time and how he spends his money (especially when no one is looking). Our family and church budgets speak volumes about our true priorities.

But with economic stimulus checks in the mail, many of our hearts will be getting an extra test in the next few weeks. Will we spend this money on a new toy? Will it be saved? Used to pay off a loan? To build some family memories? Given to church or charity? Wow. There are a lot of options. Suddenly my check doesn't sound so big after all.

On Thursday, Tim Challies posted an interview with David Kotter about the stimulus checks. It discusses the purpose of the stimulus package, the likely results, and some biblical guidelines on spending the extra money. I highly recommend it.