Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ecclesiastical Nursing Homes

Children are part of the bride of Christ. As such, they ought not to be prohibited from learning how to commune (in corporate worship) with their Lord. They ought to be knit together with us. But this is not accomplished by sitting in a pew thinking wishful thoughts. We have to do what God told us to do—sing, hear, pray, say amen, stand, kneel, eat, chew, drink and swallow—and we have to do it all in true evangelical faith. Because we hold children back from this, they either fall away, or their devotional zeal (which has somehow survived) is diverted into other more individualistic directions. They become the top Bible-verse kid at Awana, and we wonder in later years why they don't have a high view of the Church. In this the Church is like parents who put their kids in day care for years, and forty years later wonder why the kids put them in the rest home. We are to instill ecclesiastical loyalty in our children by the scriptural means, and keeping them back from the Table is not that way.

- Doug Wilson

Monday, December 26, 2011

Like Buttah ...

This Christmas, before tearing into the presents, we gathered around to read Luke 1-2.  And for this, of course I had to break out my nice Cambridge NJKV.  Here is an unpublished piece I wrote about it in '09 after making the decision to buy it.

If our Lord was worthy of Mary's spikenard, His Word is worthy of more than neon pleather.

So I've done it, I've bought a really fine Bible. This is my first worth more than $100, and wow - what a difference. The wide margins allow for plenty of note taking with my Pigma Micro pens, and even though it makes this masterpiece look a bit Sesame-Streetish, I color code my notes along certain themes [simple things for simple minds]. The binding is smyth-sewn, so it can be rebound and last several centuries if not abused. I'm looking forward to pouring over it, filling its margins w/ comments, wetting the fine India paper with my tears, and then passing it along to one of my sons to continue the process when I'm a pile of bones awaiting the final resurrection.

I had been in the market for this exact Bible when I found it on eBay for 1/3 cost of retail so I bought it and am very glad for it ... in fact, it's the opposite of "buyers' remorse" ... the more I use it, the more I appreciate it. If you're in the market for an heirloom-quality Bible, I highly recommend Mark Bertrand's site: Bible Design and Binding. He's a Bible connoisseur and his recommendations were the basis of my choice [especially his comment that holding this supple Bible was like trying to hold a puddle of water in your hands]. My son observed as I was reading it to him last night, that: 'Daddy, you would be really sad if a bear or something ripped your Bible, wouldn't you?'

In Martin Luther's Day, if a man wanted to own a Bible of his own, he had to pay the equivalent of 2 years' average wages to buy one [if he was able to find a seller/printer]. What an indescribable blessing that we can amass a collector's 'stack' of them - half a dozen translations -at the cost of maybe a week or two's wages. It's enough to make a postmillennialist out of even the most purse-lipped Calvinist.
[photo: Mark Bertrand]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Modern Incarnation of the Christmas Narrative [repost]

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself ...

Philosophers debate the possibility of God becoming a man. When it actually occurred, it was more radical than they could've imagined. After years of Hallmark nativity greetings, familiarity has blinded us to the scandal of the incarnation. When the holy God became humble, it looked, by contrast, disgusting.

The Christmas story deals in the realm of the concrete; shared reality in a fallen world; common need with which all mean can relate - and so it begins with tax legislation.

She was fifteen, quiet, and a two days over-due.

He was working in a machine shop, broke after buying the engagement ring, and hoping their eighty-nine cavalier would finish the five day trip to Coonesboro, the middle-of-no-where town whose only claim to fame was being the birthplace of a former King from the nation's glory days a thousand years ago.

When they pulled in after midnight, the only motel was behind the trailer park. The neon vacancy sign was not lit, and for good reason - the only available space was in the maintenance garage to the rear. They had no other option.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What makes a Southern Gentleman?

I recently found a neat little company that I commend to you.  It's called The Forgetful Gentleman.  Below is an example of what you might find on their blog:

Forgetful Gentleman interviewed the ultimate Southern Gentleman himself, Jeremy Blume, Principal at Bearings, a Southern lifestyle guide for men:

Why is the idea of a gentleman so prominent in the South?

Manliness and manners have always been important attributes in the South. We celebrate the man that hunts, works with his hands and has a backbone. Yet we are also a culture that prides itself on proper conduct and hospitality. The combination of those two characteristics is part of the fabric of a Southern gentleman.

What ideals, virtues and morals are integral to a southern gentleman?

A Southern gentleman should embody integrity, character, chivalry, hospitality and humility. His confidence in who he is as a man garners respect, but it’s also his humility that sets him apart. He has a healthy appreciation of the past, while at the same time a forward thinker.

What distinguishes a Southern gentleman in the following areas?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Genesis Debate, part 4 [conclusion]

HIM: B...I have not heard of that - it was my impression that many unbelieving scholars believed it to be a type of origin myth.

1 or 2 arguments:

1) I already mentioned the common 7 day literary convention in ANE literature (see Davis, "Bible, Rocks and Time")

2) The 6th day seemed to have an awful lot of things take place on it for it to be a 24 hour day

3) The 7th day clearly is not 24 hour day, unless I am greatly mistaken when I read Hebrews; if the 7th isn't, why the other 6?

As far as "Satan enticing Christians"...I'm sure the folks over at The Association for Biblical Astronomy, who still hold to an earth that neither rotates daily NOR revolves annually around the sun "because the Bible says SO!", would make the same accusations against YOU! And how would YOU go about assuring them they were wrong, I wonder? Would you go to Scripture, and say "look, this language is phenomological"? I bet their response would be something like this: "nobody thought it was phenomological UNTIL godless scientists told us that the earth spins daily and revolves around the sun, and then Christians compromised their belief in an inerrant Word of God by re-interpreting those verses!! You are letting Satan entice you away from plainly believing what you have plainly read in the Bible! The serpent is near, asking, 'Yea, hath God said?' " Something to think about, isn't it?

I think I'm getting tired of the FB exchange. When and where ya wanna do lunch? We can spar over it more then.

ME: A - that's it? All the activities of day 6 could have been done well before sunset, because - something neither of us can relate to - this took place before the invention of paperwork & cubicles; Heb 4 is moot w/ regard to our debate. I was looking for more ... oh well, back to the lab ;?).

I was also hoping our comment stream would reach 100, but alas, we're just short [finally petered out at 98]. Let me end by affirming my love and gratitude to my brother, A - and offering him the last word [his response - a short restatement of his initial post - was lost ... sorry!] ... and by asking if anyone else is even still reading and has found our exchange interesting and/or helpful ...?

Thanks, Pastor B, for stirring the Pot. Love and prayers to you, your family, and church.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eyes NOT Full of Adultery

Peter Leithart comments on the Song of Songs:
"the bride’s eros is aroused not by the lover in isolation but by the lover-in-society. What makes him lovable, desirable is not only his physical and sensual attractions but the honor bestowed upon him by others."

Such a view of attraction and arousal, actually gives chastity/modesty an appeal.

Too often, a man is lured into bedding [or lusting after] a woman that he and everyone else in town knows is a whore [think of that scene from A River Runs Through It]. The fact that she has given herself so freely and desperately to every other guy around seriously takes away from the significance of having her – she is a whore in everyone’s eyes – a woman of low esteem. That thought is a bit of a … well, downer.

For a young man to learn this view of women is a HUGE step in his sanctification. I’ve heard older, Godlier men explain their victory over the temptations of lust after gaining this mindset/heart. Learning to see a whore as ugly and her enticements as poison – regardless of her physical appearance, how many albums she's sold, centerfolds she's filled, or Oscars she's won – is an important thing to strive for.  May God bless us and our sons as we cultivate the ability to see the daughters of men through His eyes.

[print of Dorian Gray from Alcorn Studios]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Genesis Debate, part 3

ME: Well, I guess that in the same way you affirm “**creation in 6 days**” I affirm “**your position**”.

‘Mountains of evidence’… was that a pun? ;?) How big do you think the mounts of opposing ev were in Galileo’s day?

So is the debate: ‘my int.... of Gen’ vs Nature OR Genesis vs Your interpretation of nature? IMHO it’s too high a view of “science” – having spent countless hours renewing our minds via Discovery Channel HD, we’ll not doubt 1 jot or tittle of this month’s National Geographic. I’d blame your high school education, but … ;?)  [we went to the same High School]

Of the “2 books of God’s revelation” – Scripture and Nature [only 1 of which is actually a “book”] - which one is more clear? When they seem to conflict, which do we bend to fit? Which is subject to revision? Which involves more interpretation [ie. Which is harder to “read”?]? I’m telling you that Genesis is not compatible w/ these “scientific” interpretations. The text itself does not allow it.

The question is [cover your ears kids] epistemological. As one said: in Scripture, what is the opposite of “faith”? The knee-jerk Reformed answer is “works”, but that is not it … it’s SIGHT.

A, I really appreciate your candor, bro. ... I’ll reciprocate – no, I don’t read much science. But the question isn’t scientific, it’s literary. What was Moses saying? What did Israel believe? What did the Apostles teach? IMO, that’s the bottom line – take it or leave it.

HIM: B...Mountains of evidence! HA! I made a funny, and didn't even realize it! : D

I think you are well aware that there are many conservative evangelical, even Reformed, OT scholars who don't seem to have a problem understanding Genesis ...1 in such a way that it doesn't require 6 24-hour days. Ben, have you considered the fact that much ANE literature utilized a 7-day structure, which was clearly a literary device never intended to convey literal 24 days? Is it absolutely outside the realm of possibility that Moses could have used a literary convention such as this, one that his original audience (the Israelites) would have appreciated, even if we don't?

As I've tried to emphasize before, the truth discovered in God's creation will never contradict the truth in Scripture. With that much I think we agree. However, our interpretations of both creation and Scripture are fallible. You're convinced that I'm interpreting creation incorrectly (although you admit that you don't really understand the "story" that creation is telling, because you haven't read much in the area), and I'm convinced that you're interpreting Scripture wrongly. Can I humbly suggest that before you get locked in to that position, that you invest in "Bible, Rocks and Time" or another book providing the multiple lines of evidence behind the age of the earth? To me it just seems like the intellectually fair thing to do. When we get together for lunch, I'll even lend one to you.

You make jokes about putting too much stock in science shows, magazines, etc. The implication is that you think scientists are somehow more "fallible" than Bible interpreters. I beg to differ! C'mon, Ben, you've gone from being Arminian to Reformed, and from credobapist to paedobaptist (and perhaps you've changed your views in other ways too). Are you seriously trying to suggest that there aren't a lot of fallible interpretations held by fallible brethren in Christ?? On the other hand, in the scientific community NOBODY affirms a 10,000 year old earth, EXCEPT the handful of people who are bound to a specific interpretation of Genesis; and they don't really have credible scientific evidence to bring against an old earth...just an unwavering faith that this interpretation of Genesis 1 is the only conceivable interpretation. Don't you find that even a little bit troubling? Just a wee bit?

B, would you admit that there have certainly been times in the past when the commonly held beliefs of the day (which were engrained in minds because of what people THOUGHT was supported from Scripture) have been RIGHTLY discarded mainly due to new light that scientific discoveries shed? If you admit it, please remember that history tends to repeat itself.

ME: A - because you are a gentleman, brother in Christ, and buddy - I would certainly be willing to reconsider your position. Let me ask this: what do you think are the 1 or 2 strongest arguments WITHIN THE TEXT ITSELF for a loose reading/interpretation?

@ N [per A's comment] No N, actually Satan is involved a lot earlier on in the process, enticing Christians away from the practice of plainly believing what they have plainly read in the Bible from its first pages.

"Yea, hath... God said? ... Oh ... yeah, He did. But He didn't actually mean THAT, did He?"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Avoiding Ministerial Burn-out

An interview w/ Gregg Strawbridge:

The way to avoid burnout is by addressing body, soul, spirit [without being overly-tripartite].

1. Body – frequent, rigorous physical exercise and activity [I would have become burnt-out if I hadn’t started training for triathlons because physically, you get worn down by dealing with other people’s problems no matter what your situation.]

2. Mind – refresh yourself by regularly stimulating intellectual growth.

3. Spiritually – the most important point is to put away your sin – whether it’s obvious sin like lust or a very ‘respectable sin’ like the fear of man/ being obsequious to people in authority or greed and a desire for money … there are many different sins that can control you and if you’re letting sin control you it’s easy to want to escape from people, escape from the church and ministry, and that’s really just a precursor to burn-out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What is the Chief End of Man?

Recently, I Overheard this conversation among some of my friends and coworkers – the speakers were an Evangelical believer discussing general apologetic issues w/ an agnostic one… I got involved after the fact, but thought this part was telling. I quote them both here verbatim [hence the expletive].

Agnostic: So you believe there is a purpose for your life?
Evangelical: Yes.
A: What is the purpose for your life?
E: To witness.
A: What does that mean?
E: To spread the ‘good news’.
A: That’s it?
E: Yes.
A: That's the purpose for your life?
E: Yes.
A: Sounds like a pretty lame-ass purpose to me.

I perked up when I heard the critical question but was unable to interject the glorious words of the Westminster Catechism at that point when they were so desperately fitting.  In my mind, this vividly illustrates the shortcomings of a typical shallow view of the gospel and a one-dimensional understanding of the Christian life and worldview.  The entirety of many Christians' system of faith can be likened to "I-amway: Spiritual multi-level marketing"; like so many little Christian amoebas whose only purpose is replication.  The gospel is more than this.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Worship Meditation - 2nd Sunday

Isaiah 40:1-11 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." A voice says, "Cry out!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Insight: Anyone similarly blessed to be familiar with the ultimate musical masterpiece, Handel’s Messiah, will recognize the first verse of this passage as the opening words of that great work. “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” These were the hope-filled words of God’s prophet 700 years before the fact. But they were a mere blink to the God Who had inspired them. And though our frail bodies fade like dry field clover, God’s hopeful promises stand. This particular one stood for 7 centuries, 4 of which were a hard, barren time of frustrating silence for Israel. Then, true to His word, Post Tenebras Lux: God forgave the iniquity of His people and restored the fortunes of Jacob. He sent John to pave a highway for the Evangelion of His Son, the Great Shepherd of His sheep, Whose mighty arms stretched forth to gently gather the lambs. In Him is seen the kiss of righteousness and peace.

Questions: How many times in your own life have you known the comfort of God? Do you cherish the gospel as a victory of peace with God? In your own life and that of your friends and loved ones, how have you seen the patience of God leading the lost to repentance? When was the last time you listened to Handel’s Messiah? Isn’t it about time to listen again?

Prayer: Great Father, we praise You for Your comfort and steadfast love toward us, Your people. Grant us, by Your Spirit, more grace to live lives worthy of Your comfort as a testimony of the hope that is ours by Your Son, our Lord, in Whose great name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Batman Vs. Santa

The crying need of our day is for Heroes. Our sons need heroes – real heroes. With that in mind, we have been trying to wean them off of the caped/masked/animal-kingdom-themed variety and inspire them by saturation with real hero stories. What could be more important than this?

Lately, we’ve been reading about Nicholas of Myra aka Saint Nicholas. And at this point in the reading, I’m struck by all the similarities that exist between Bruce Wayne and Nicholas of Myra. So here is a brief – if timely – meditation because this time of year the air is rank with thick materialism [quick, grab a breathing regulator from my bat belt, Robin!]

Both lost parents at young age and as a result vowed to devote their lives to good …

Both battled the forces of evil [Nicholas purportedly had to be restrained at the council of Nicaea after literally slapping Arius in the face … I love it!] …

Both spent their lives helping the victimized and helpless …

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Disadvantages of Modern Civilization

“To build his pyramid Cheops packed some pounds of rice into the stomachs of innumerable Egyptians and Israelites. We today would pack some pounds of coal inside steam boilers to do the same thing, and this might be cited as an instance of the superiority of modern civilization over ancient brute force. But when referred to the sun, our true standard of reference, the comparison is naught, because to produce these few pounds of coal required a thousand times more solar energy than to produce the few pounds of rice. We are simply taking advantage of an accidental circumstance.

It took Cheops twenty years to build his pyramid, but if he had had a lot of Trustees, contractors, and newspaper reporters to worry him, he might not have finished it by that time. The advantages of modern engineering are in many ways over balanced by the disadvantages of modern civilization.”

-Washington Roebling, chief engineer of the brooklyn bridge

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Modesty for Dummies [and their teenage daughters]

Recently, the issue of modesty surfaced in a discussion of congregational life, [as it will from time to time] but with a twist.  The unwitting offenders were young ladies from very solid Christian families – many only being young teens whose fathers are otherwise engaged, devout, and fastidious.  The problem seems to be that these fathers – looking through paternal eyes – simply cannot see the obvious: that their daughters are becoming ladies now in need of a particular level of coverage.  Fathers are notorious for this: “…not my little girl. You must be thinking of someone else’s daughter.” 
For such men I have a helpful suggestion [and timely].  Since Christmas is right around the corner, sit down next to your daughter tonight and – after reminding her of this fact – ask her to list for you her top 3 favorite clothing stores [to which she would just love a gift card].  Once she has done this, without missing a beat, hop on the internet and [with her at your side] just dare to open and view the home page of each store, one at a time.  The images that will flash before your glazed eyes will probably be enough to raise your pulse and redden your cheeks, especially with your “not my little girl” sitting beside.  If this isn’t enough, the next time you’re at the mall, take a minute to walk into these stores.  Look around at the posters on the wall; take a gander at the photos they actually print on said gift cards; check out the bags they chirpily hand each shopper to carry around the mall like a walking mini-billboard, slash, status symbol, slash, black & white peep show snapshot.  Sir, if you have a hard time seeing your young daughter for what she now is -  a sexual being, please be aware that Abercrombie, Hollister, American Eagle, Aeropostale, and all the other companies manufacturing her wardrobe don’t.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Choose Subversive Sarcasm

For those of my readers not from Maryland [okay, ... hi mom ... and to my other reader from Lithuania, 'Zdravstvuj, comrade!'], a bit of background is in order.  For the last 2 years, Howard County has launched a public niceness campaign based on the Oprah-endorsed book 'Choose Civility'.  The initiative is based out of their award-winning library branches, where I have to admit I do spend a considerable amount of time.  The whole campaign consists almost entirely of handing out free bumperstickers that say "Choose Civility in Howard County".  But because civility is so dependent upon some ethical framework, I find that daily, as I drive to and from work, a miniature Greg Bahnsen appears [poof] on my shoulder spouting presuppositional jabs each time I see the bumpersticker.  So, not wanting to miss an opportunity to declare the postmodern emporers' new clothes of civility to be, in fact, non-existent, here are some humorous parodies I've come up with.  My good friend and creative genius John Barnes was the original inspiration for most of these and you can find his batch of these with a quick google search. 

To see the rest of the collection, click below ...