30 November 2010

Book Notes-November 2010

1.  Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World by ND Wilson (2009).  I received this book as a conference freebie at Desiring God 2010.  Before opening it, my hopes were admittedly low.  Yet by the end of the first page, I was hooked.  I knew that I would rate this book highly.  I wrote the author, commenting that reading this book has been a rare privilege and that I could have easily underlined everything.  He writes thoughtfully, but his word choice adds flesh to his thoughts.  I found myself drawn in by his descriptions, wishing I could write the same way.  Further, he addresses difficult topics like suffering, death, and hell--not in an academic way, but artfully.  I will most certainly read this book again, if for no other reason than the joy his writing style brings.  5 stars.

2.  Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God by Voddie Baucham Jr (2007).  I am going to just come out and say right away that I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I love it when I read two great books back to back.  The book sets out to equip Christian parents to raise their children Biblically, using Deuteronomy 6 as his model, rather than passing the buck on to school systems or youth pastors.  In his introduction, he writes "our children are not falling away because the church is doing a poor job--although that is undoubtedly a factor. Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish. Discipleship and multi-generational faithfulness begins and ends at home."  His language is sometimes stark, but like stepping outside on a sub-zero morning, there is a certain refreshment that comes with his approach as well.  He calls families to eschew the cultural standards of: having children involved in every activity, marrying late, and not having kids.  He is pro-homeschool, pro-big family, pro-discipline.  I am particularly intrigued by his anti-segregationist approach to worship where people of all ages worship together at church.  Read this book.  5 stars.

3. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Re:Lit) by DA Carson (2010).  Scandalous was developed from a series of teachings given at Mars Hill church by DA Carson about the cross and the resurrection.  Carson clearly demonstrates his depth and breadth of knowledge in this book, which is much appreciated.  It seemed a bit wide ranging at times, but all in all, it was a useful book.  3 stars.  

23 November 2010

What Ever Happened to Holiness?

Kevin DeYoung wrote a great essay about holiness.  We talk a lot about salvation, but not a lot about sanctification in our lives. 

He wrote, 'I find it telling that you can find plenty of young Christians today who are really excited about justice and serving in their communities. You can find Christians fired up about evangelism. You can find lots of Generation XYZ believers passionate about precise theology. Yes and amen to all that. But where are the Christians known for their zeal for holiness? Where is the corresponding passion for honoring Christ with Christlike obedience? We need more Christian leaders on our campuses, in our cities, in our seminaries who will say with Paul, 'Look carefully then how you walk'? (Eph. 5:15)."

Read the whole thing here.

22 November 2010

I am a Hypocrite

"I am not offering you Christians, I am offering you Christ." -Dr Akbar Haqq 

I was talking with someone today and talk turned to religion, or rather, Christianity.  The person to whom I was speaking said that she and her husband avoided church because of the hypocrisy.  This charge, so often leveled against the church by non-believers, weighed heavily on me most of the day.  It weighed upon me because it seems so damning.  And because it is true. 

You see, the church is full of people who pretend to be virtuous, but really aren't.  I am one of them.  Though I cling to grace, I am too often impressed with my own "virtue."  Every day, I forget what a wretch I am, that I am utterly hopeless.  The natural consequence of my own arrogance is that I subsequently expect other people to measure up to me.  In other words, I am a hypocrite. 

My initial thought was to say to her "not all Christians are hypocrites!", but I suppose we are.  Christians have done terrible things in the name of Christ.  David did commit adultery.  Luther, one of the greatest theologians in history, did write caustically against Jews.  I have judged myself by a different standard than I have judged others.  I recently heard it put this way by radio host Bob Lepine, "when we look at the sins of others, we look through the small end of a spyglass, but when we look at our own sins, we turn it around and look through the big end." 

I am left in the same place that I always am when it comes to questions of faith--at the foot of the cross.  Rather than defending myself, or my actions, I humbly admit that we Christians are not always consistent with our faith but, praise be to God, it is Christ's finished work, not my behavior that saves me from my sin.  From now on, I pray that God allows me to use the charge of hypocrisy not as a road to defensiveness, but instead a doorway to talk about the grace of Christ. 

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. -1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Move that Bus!

This post has been getting a lot of play around the blogosphere today.  Mike Cosper argues that the 3 most disturbing words on television today are, "move that bus!" made popular by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. 

He writes:

Which brings me to the three most disturbing words on television: “Move that bus.”

Again, there’s no arguing with the warmth and altruistic sentiments of the show. The families who have been profiled always seem to be wonderful people, I don’t impugn them or the show’s creators with secret evil intentions. But a disturbing thing happens in the final moments of the show. After profiling the family’s suffering, after talking about hardship and perseverance, after recruiting an army of volunteers, the family is brought in front of the new home, which is hidden from view by a large touring bus. They count down and call out those three words, and the reaction can only be described as worship. There are tears and shouting while people fall to their knees, hands raised in the air.

Here it is on bold display: the ultimate hope of most Americans. It’s as though a phantom voice is responding to their suffering with the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Here is your reward: dreamy bedrooms, big-screen TVs, privacy fencing, and wireless internet. We watch. We weep. And we hope for ourselves. It’s yet another gospel alternative, this one packaged as a heart-warming vision of the way life is “supposed to be.”

What say you reader?   

19 November 2010

6 seconds

Jani Ortlund, wife of 39 years, writes: "After years of a quick shout from somewhere near the back door, it started with “Goodbye, honey. See you tonight . . .” which left us both wanting more. It stopped when we decided that before we went out to face our day we would scout the other out, wrap each other up in a warm embrace, and begin our day with an intimate, very married, six-second kiss."

Heather, I would dig this, for what it is worth. 

13 November 2010

Be who you are

Often, when children are adopted, particularly when they are older, they bring baggage. Despite repeated assurances that they are welcome as they are, that they are full heirs, they cling to their identity as orphans. Stories are readily found about adoptees hoarding food, or stealing, or seeking their old way of life. Persistent parents demonstrate love, yet some children never adopt their new identity as a part of the family.

Bob Lepine, one of the speakers today, reminded me of my own status as an orphan as he shared from Ephesians. He rightly concludes that the outline of Ephesians is, "this is who you were, this is who you are, be who you are."

Ephesians 2:1-3 tells me who I was. It reads, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.". I was living in the passions passions of my flesh. I was carrying out the desires of my body and mind. I was dead.

Ephesians 2:4-8 reminds who I am. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.". I am a child made alive, by his mercy. Ephesians 1:4-5 reminds me that God chose me for adoption. He wants me in his family. I am in his family.

Yet I continue to live as I was, not as I am. Ephesians 4-6 teaches me to live as I am, not as I was. Not in a legalistic sense, but because it represents the promises of my life as I am...as an adopted child of my Father.

I like how CS Lewis wrote about this in the Weight of Glory: "If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."-CS Lewis

CCEF-day 2

Well, after the first day, I exhausted. Grace asked how I could feel so exhausted just from talking, and I corrected her that it was actually from listening.

Tim Lane presented about calling unto God and others. He pointed out that we fall into the trap of either "me" centered or "couple" centered marriages, rather than God centered marriages. He said "true Biblical change is not less than behavioral, it's more; it's not less than cognitive, it's more. It is relational and covenantal. He noted that when first things are put first, second things are not supressed, but increased. We need to be reminded that God created each of us, including our differences. We need to remember that God is sovereign, even when our marriages seem hard. He stated, "the isolated Christian is limited. Your marriage is a community, but it is too small a community to meet all the depths of community. So we need to be careful not to isolate ourselves."

Mike Emlet presented the second general session of the day and he focused on unity, not just in marriage, but in the church. Frankly, I was really tired during this session. He exhorted us to seek out those brothers and sisters with whom we are most conflicted and work toward reconciliation because God cherishes unity. He rightly reminds that if you are unified in your church, you can fight the real enemy.

I also attended a couple of electives. The first was by Ed Welch on avoiding th mundane in conversations. He also centered on the importance of peace and unity. He made the foillowing points. 1) God speaks, so words are a big deal. 2) He also listens and is not distracted as we so often are. 3) conversations imitate our communication with God and are our primary means of growth in unity. 4) conversations are a skill. Do we pray about that skill? 5) conversations can take planning. 6) conversations draw the others person out and they go deeper. 7) conversations require a basic knowledge of people. 8) conversations should sneak in a personal blessing--a specific blessing. 9) if you are distracted, talk about why. 10) both the speaker and the listener are busy in the conversation. 11) be alert to the tendency to "one up" the other in conversation.

I also attended a talk on singles in the church by Cecilia Barnhardt. This was a good talk that dealt with many of the assumptions of singles in the church. Briefly, she validated the feeling of isolation that is often experienced by singles and encouraged us not to minimize, downplay, or shame those whoe express this feeling. She pointed out the family-centric nature of the church, which minimizes the Biblical focus, where the church is the family that is most often at the center.

Julie Lowe closed the day. I have notes on her excellent talk too, just not with me. I am learning a ton. I pray that I can apply much of what I have learned.

11 November 2010

CCEF-day 1

I attended 2 sessions today
The first dealt with premarital counseling. Jason Barrie had a lot of good, gospel centered advice. He spoke specifically about the need to have a right view of God, a right view of self, and a right view of others. Here were some choice quotes.
1) if you are willing to sacrifice your fiances purity before marriage, you will be willing to do the same thing afterward.
2) Everyone knows what the church is against, no one knows what we are for.
3) (regarding premarital relations) there is no other area in my life where I want to see how close I can get to sin without doing it.  FLEE FROM SIN!
4) self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together-Bonhoeffer
5)be a sermon in shoes.

The second session dealt with marital conflict and was given by Aaron Sironi and Gary Friesen of Peacemaker Ministries. It was also deeply grounded in the gospel. They provided a good model for confession and forgiveness that I am not going to go into in great depth.

More tomorrow.

08 November 2010

Exchanging the Mundane for Glorious

On October 30th, the Opera Company of Philadelphia showed up at Macy's in Philadelphia with 650 choristers and the worlds largest pipe organ for a pop-up version of the Hallelujah Chorus.  This brought tears to my eyes, as Handel's Messiah so often does.  Sadly, in our world of mundane lyrics and even poorer music, I fear that many people have never heard this glorious piece of music.  Kudos to the OCP for trying to bring a little culture to the people of Philadelphia.  Should we all be so lucky.

01 November 2010

5 pro-life questions for the midterm elections

Scott Klusendorf asks 5 questions about pro-life voting:

Question #1: Should pastors lovingly challenge church members who actively support a political party that supports elective abortion?
Question #2: What role does the gospel play in my political affiliations?
Question #3: Liberal Christians insist that conservatives are focusing too narrowly on abortion to the exclusion of other important issues. Are pro-life Christians guilty of single issue voting? 
Question #4: Some Christians say that while they don’t think abortion is a good idea, legislation is not the best way to prevent it. They contend that pro-lifers would be far more effective spending their energies “elsewhere.”
Question #5: In 2008, some “pro-life” advocates voted for a presidential candidate who supports elective abortion as a fundamental right. Many insisted their vote was a true pro-life vote. How do you explain this?

Read the whole thing here.