31 December 2012

Book Review: The Practice of Godliness

Over the past year or so, I have been on a Jerry Bridges kick.  He writes in an understandable, practical way sharing examples from his own life and the life of others to highlight biblical truths.  For Christmas, my wife bought me 4 Jerry Bridges books and the first one that I chose was The Practice of Godliness (1996). 

This book was essentially an exposition on the fruits of the spirit.  In his preface (p. 9), he wrote "The Pursuit of Holiness (another excellent book) dealt largely with putting off the old self--dealing with the sin in our lives.  The Practice of Godliness focuses on putting on the new self--growing in Christian Character."  It seems to me that so many of Bridges work well together, building a strong structure by focusing on different elements of the Christian faith. 

Bridges grounds the establishment of several elements of character in devotion to God, which consists of three aspects: the fear of God, the love of God, and the desire for God.  He also talks about the importance of "training yourself to be godly" (1 Tim 4:7), but as is characteristic of him, he balances this pursuit of godliness with a deep understanding of grace.  It seems to me that it is so often characteristic of modern theology to either completely set aside any striving for holiness or make a pursuit of holiness a necessary requisite of salvation.  Bridges always seems to get the balance close to right. 

The later half of the book focuses on elements of Christian character: humility, contentment, thankfulness, joy, holiness, self-control, faithfulness, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness & goodness, and love.  For each of these, he discusses their biblical importance and then suggests ways in which to grow in each element.

I would happily suggest this book.  Feel free to read it along with: The Pursuit of Holiness, Transforming Grace, the Transforming Power of the Gospel, The Discipline of Grace...really any of Bridges's books. 

30 December 2012

Book Review: Between Noon and Three

Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Robert Farrar Capon, 1997) was an unusual book.  On the positive side, Capon is a compelling writer, utilizing a unique style to present a topic of essential importance--grace.  This book essentially consists of three shorter stories (initially published as 2 books in 1982 and 1983)--Parable, Coffee Hour, and The Youngest Day. 

The first section, Parable, makes up about 40 percent of the book and sets the stage for the subsequent sections.  Capon writes a tale of a successful sexual liaison between Paul and Laura as a parable of God's grace.  The choice of an illicit affair was chosen in many ways to shock the reader so that they might better see the radical nature of God's grace.  Along the way of his storytelling, he stops and engages directly with the reader, sharing theological insights and reflections.  He anticipates challenges from his readership, which are more fully addressed in section two.

In Coffee Hour, he hypothesizes a conversation with his critics.  He creates several characters who pose challenges to his line of thinking to which he subsequently responds.  This conversational style is much more engaging than a standard refutation of criticisms.  It drew me in as a reader. What I found particularly interesting was that the critiques raised by his friends during the coffee hour were many of the criticisms that I had.  Although he engages in intellectualizing to his readers, his responses to me seem incomplete.  He ignores some parts of scripture in service to his viewpoint.  He uses intentionally shocking language (e.g., describing God as a snake oil salesman and Jesus as a glutton), I suspect to set the reader back on his heels.  Unfortunately, his effect misses the point, setting the reader committed to biblical orthodoxy in a defensive position. 

In the final section, The Youngest Day, he writes another short parable, this time about an ordered hit, perhaps to deepen the shock.  He then moves into a discussion of heaven, hell, judgment, and death.  The incompleteness in his theology that I first observed in the first two sections comes to frank inaccuracy here. He denies the propitiation of the Son, a clear teaching of scripture.  He comes out as an inclusivist, again shocking the reader by discussing Hitler and the Jews and how God doesn't keep score.  He essentially argues that one does not need to express saving faith, rather that only those who actively reject Christ (even after death) will face a life in Hell.  In other words, all are reconciled to Christ unless they specifically reject that reconciliation. 

Although this is an interesting book and a compelling read, ultimately Capon is off base with regard to his theology.  He admits to only working on the sunny side of the street, but this is a limited theology that rejects the parts of scripture which don't fit the mold, which unfortunately in Capon's case, is entirely too much. 

28 December 2012

Best Books of 2012

A lot of bloggers have posted their "best of" lists.  I thought I would share my favorites as well, but with just a brief explanation for each.  For many of them, I provided a fuller review, elsewhere on the blog.   Of the 60 or so books I read this year, these were the ones I would most highly recommend, though they are in no particular order.

Anatomy of the Soul--I responded to the author of this book at a conference in Branson this summer.  The first time I read it, I enjoyed it and was challenged by it. The more I thought of it, however, the more I wanted to go back and re-read things again and again.  Briefly, this is a Christian understanding of interpersonal neurobiology.  If that sounds boring, it isn't. 

The Transforming Power of the Gospel--I have been on a Jerry Bridges kick.  In this book, Bridges discusses how the gospel not only saves us, but also transforms our lives. 

Not the Way Its Supposed to Be--This book by Cornelius Plantinga was required reading for the Centurions program.  It is a phenomenal exploration of sin discussed by a compelling author. 

Total Truth--This is a must read book with regard to Christian worldview.  Nancy Pearcey is a sharp thinker and clear writer, challenging many of the modern secular viewpoints with clearheaded thinking. 

Think Christianly--This book, by Jonathan Morrow, is along the same lines as Pearcey's book above.  Although I suspect it will not have the same staying power as Total Truth, it was timely and very readable. 

Gospel Wakefulness/Gospel Deeps--These two books by Jared Wilson helped me to dive deeper into the gospel.  Wilson writes with great maturity of someone his age and I would commend anything he has written. 

The Explicit Gospel--Matt Chandler's book is a unique one.  He takes a look at the gospel on the ground versus the gospel in the air, essentially making the case that the gospel should not only transform people but transform culture.  The balance was excellent. 

Shame Interrupted--I have realized over the past year how much shame affects people throughout the culture and how much it has affected me.  The only remedy to shame is the truth of the gospel. 

20 December 2012

I like adoption

From the husband, "She's the gas pedal, and I am the brake."  I have said those exact words to my wife. 

Watch this video and cry.

New Film Premiere - I Like Adoption. from ILikeGiving.com on Vimeo.

16 December 2012

What happened to responsibility?

Just a few days after the tragedy in Connecticut, the Internet got about the business that it remains so good at, conjecture and blame casting.  Certainly, anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account yesterday noticed the speculations building as to what might have happened to cause this tragedy.  Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, asks if we now have the courage to stop this as he calls for tighter gun controls.  A friend of mine, also a neuropsychologist, wrote, "I then told them [his children] that I hoped one of the good things that will come out of something so sad is that our country finds a way to not make it so easy for mean guys to get guns. The hope here is that this would allow them to feel that something may happen in our society to make them feel safer. I sure hope this is not wishful thinking on my part because we cannot have another tragedy like this ever again."  Several other psychologists with whom I am acquainted are calling for tighter gun regulations.

Let me first state, as a gun owner and a conservative, I am not sure that these people are wrong about tighter limits on access to guns.  I believe it is a good idea for strict background checks for people who obtains firearms, though it seems to me that some people are under the impression that there are no restrictions in place at all.  There are background checks for legally obtaining firearms. Could, or should, these checks be stricter?  Perhaps. 

I also do not see the necessity for personal ownership of assault rifles. I have several friends who will no doubt disagree with me on this point, but I simply do not understand the need for a weapon that serves no practical (e.g., hunting) purpose. 

Having said all that, blaming guns for tragedies seems entirely misplaced. It is as misplaced as blaming the size of soft drinks for the obesity epidemic.  Or blaming the availability of merchandise at Walmart for shoplifting.  Or blaming poverty for theft.  No one wants to speak of personal responsibility or even consider other factors that are contributing to our human problems. 

One of the points I made yesterday is that Americans have always had access to guns, perhaps with even greater availability in the past.  I suspect that 100 or 150 years ago, a greater percentage of homes would own a firearm than do now.  There are countries (e.g., Switzerland, Israel) where most homes have firearms but homicides and gun-related crime rates are significantly lower.  England does have strict control on gun ownership, but in the past 10 years, the rates of gun-related violence have increased 89%. 

The psychologists that I have been reading, professional and amateur, have been blaming guns even though the role of psychologists is to examine human behavior. These psychologists have not been asking the question "what is it, psychologically, that is contributing to the increased rate of violent crime in the United States?"; rather, they are targeting firearms themselves. 

I believe that one of the first unaddressed issues is that we have a diminished sense of personal responsibility.  From early years on, children today are less often encouraged to accept responsibility for their behaviors.  If they don't earn good grades, it is the teacher's fault.  If they hit another child, they were provoked. This has been gradually bleeding into adulthood as well.  Adults have a harder time accepting responsibility for their behaviors, in part because we are a society that raises self-centered narcissists (Twenge and Campbell).  People become alcoholics because their parents were mean.  People stop working because they can't handle the emotional strain from day to day.

In days past, people took responsibility for their own well-being and the well-being of their families.  Even when provoked or dealt a bad hand, they made due. They adjusted.  When they fouled up, they would own up.

We need to get back to a time where we promote individual responsibility and collective accountability.  We need to show people how to take ownership for their actions and to hold them accountable when they falter. We need to promote other-centered service rather than self-centered narcissism.

Second, we need a bigger picture of potential influences (without downplaying the absolute importance of fostering responsibility).  Availability of guns is one piece of the puzzle, but in my opinion it is far down the list of contributing factors. We must also consider the constant availability of ultraviolent, ultrarealistic movies and video games that desensitize people to murder and mayhem, even putting young people in the position of being a "first person shooter".  To be sure, I am not blaming movies or video games any more than we should blame guns, but I think we need to understand that they may influence thinking and behavior.  Gun ownership hasn't changed over the years, a culture of exposure to and celebration of violence has.

Furthermore, the breakdown of the family unit and particularly the loss of fathers in the home, creates an environment where it is more difficult to foster responsibility.  Tired single parents, trying to fill the roles of mom and dad, often lack the physical and emotional energy to consistently and firmly promote responsibility among their children and so children, left to their own devices, expose themselves to violent games, pornography, and other media that affects their development. It seems that psychologists are much less willing to talk about the overwhelming data that suggests that fathers in homes and stable family units are beneficial in a wide variety of ways.

Along these same lines, we have lost a sense of objective morality.  It appears to me that over the past 50 years as we have seen vast increases in crime and particularly violent crime, it is not the presence of guns (even assault rifles) that have created the drastic societal changes, but a promotion of relativism.  Children are now taught in schools that values are relative and that "whatever you believe is true for you, even if it is not true for me" (for more information, look up the problems with the values clarification movement).  When children and adults are told that whatever they choose to believe is true, and if you disagree with their viewpoints you are intolerant, it creates an environment where people do whatever they want.  We have relabeled sin as sickness, much to our detriment.

In sum, it may very well be that increased restrictions on obtaining firearms is the direction in which we are headed, but it is my contention that the guns are no more the problem in violent crimes than cheeseburgers are the problems in obesity. 

Twenge J.M., & Campbell, W.K. (2009). The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Free Press.

15 December 2012

Whatever happened to anticipation?

Yesterday, even before the tragedy in Connecticut, I had begun to wonder whatever happened to anticipation? It used to be that the month leading up to Christmas, the Advent season, was celebrated the expectation of a Savior.  Many individuals and many churches continue to celebrate Advent, though unfortunately, this seems to be a tradition disappearing from more evangelical churches.  Even those who continue to celebrate have sometimes muddled it.  We have lost our sense of anticipation.  We are not a people accustomed to waiting, to longing. 

We now have an immediate fix for every want.  Two hundred years ago, one might wait months to hear a good word from someone and so words were chosen with care.  They may go years, even decades, without seeing one another.  This absence created a longing for reunion. Now, we have smart phones, Facebook, and email for immediate, constant connection.  This immediacy has brought with it an unfortunate deadening of our affections for one another.  Words are written carelessly, the sense of longing is absent. 

Think too about movies. I remember as a child the anticipation of the holiday season. We would plan out our schedules with the chance to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Now, movies are available on demand.  We can watch whatever we want, whenever we want it and so they become less exciting.

We can get whatever food we want whenever we want it.  We can access any sexual predilection on the Internet at the click of a mouse.  Thanks to websites like Amazon, we can obtain nearly any good we would like.  And so we have no sense of eager waiting for God's good gifts. 

The Jews of Old understood the anticipation of the Savior.  From the time of the fall, from the time of the exodus, from the time of King David, from the time of the prophets, from the time of the silent years, they longed for a Savior.  After the fall, the world existed in a state of sin.  No man made religion, no ritualistic rule keeping, no moral self improvement, no self-esteem programs, nothing could deliver the world from the sin that pervades every corner. And so they waited for the Promised One. 

Two thousand years ago, that promise was fulfilled. Jesus Christ came to earth, born of a virgin, so that he could do what nothing or no one else could.  He came to cleanse the world from the expansiveness of sin.  No doubt, the people of Connecticut are longing for deliverance. Every day, in every corner of the world, people long for release from suffering.  The answer to the pain wrought by sin is the Savior, the suffering Savior, who bore the sins of the whole world that whoever believes in him will be delivered. 

During this season, take time to step back from the constant distractions and immediate fixes and ask God to return to you a sense of anticipation of the only true Deliverer 

14 December 2012

The beginning and the end of Habakkuk

Friends, take some time and reflect on Habakkuk today and pray for the murdered children of Connecticut today...and the rest of the children that are murdered throughout the world everyday that slip past our consciences.  God, give us hearts that cry out to you for comfort in the midst of iniquity and that rejoice in your sovereignty in all things. 

Habakkuk's Complaint
    O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
        and you will not hear?
    Or cry to you “Violence!”
        and you will not save?
    Why do you make me see iniquity,
        and why do you idly look at wrong?
    Destruction and violence are before me;
        strife and contention arise.
    So the law is paralyzed,
        and justice never goes forth.
    For the wicked surround the righteous;
        so justice goes forth perverted.
-Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk rejoices in the Lord
    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer's;
        he makes me tread on my high places.
    To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
-Habakkuk 3:17-19

06 December 2012

The Greatest Story by the Greatest Author

Matt Papa with a spoken poem--the Story of God.  It is worth ten minutes of your time, twenty if you watch it twice. 

04 December 2012

John Piper: The Innkeeper

I love John Piper.  I love poetry (largely because of John Piper). This wonderful video shows John Piper reading his poem "The Innkeeper".  Please take a moment to watch it.

22 November 2012

Wedding Day by Casting Crowns

I have a number of songs that blow me away.  They bring tears to my eyes as I bask in the knowledge of God's grace and mercy.  A few weeks ago, I bought Come to the Well, but Casting Crowns and track 8 is called "Wedding Day."  I have listened to this song again and again as I reflect on how God sees me.  Amazing.

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds its breath
Waiting now to see the Bridegroom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
But this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that He sees
She wears white head to toe
But only He could make it so

(Think about this verse.  This is a remarkable reflection of grace!  Each of us bears the shame of our own history.  We are unworthy, worn, and wary, but we are clothed in Christ's perfect righteousness).  

When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says you’re beautiful
When you don’t know you are
When all you long to see
Is written on His face
Love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day

She has danced in golden castles
She has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before Him
And she wears His righteousness
She will be who He adores
This is what He made her for

(Again, think about this.  When we stand before Christ, we will wear his righteousness and we are adored!). 

When the hand that bears the only scars
In Heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as He takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

(This final verse has amazing imagery.  Jesus' hands will bear the only scars in heaven.  By his wounds we are completely healed.)

18 November 2012

Book Review: The Hammer of God

I just finished this remarkable novel written by Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God.  The book, made up of 3 novellas, was written in 1960 by a Swedish pastor, linked around the concept of God's grace.  The introductory notes are a must read and reveal the following: Three parishes in the same location of Sweden are featured, one in 1808, a second in 1878, and a third in 1937.  Each section seeks to address a theological problem affecting the churches at the time.  In the first case, rationalism had its grip on the church and Giertz points the reader back to nourishment of God's word and Christ alone.  In the second, he discussed two types of revivalism, the second leading to legalism.  In the final section, he examines the increasing influence of liberal theology upon the church.  Presented in fictional form, the reader is unwittingly drawn into a discussion of theology and of classical Lutheranism, a clear strength. 

I would like to share some brief snippets, hopefully to draw you into the story.

From the first story: "Sitting there in the carriage, it seemed to him that God was just as distant and exalted for him as the cloudless and spacious summer sky above him--infinitely majestic, gentle in his summer warmth, but oh, so far away! For the people he had just learned to know, God was also the earth and the common day. He was as near to them as the Bible on the table or the clothes they wore. He was as real as the ploughed fields and the mountain crags. His wrath was like a tempest and a fever, his mercy like a lovely sabbath morning. For them, everything was near and palpable. And yet they had the infinity of heaven remaining above them!"

From the second: " The conscience, our own anxiety, and all slaves of the law bid us go the way of obedience to the very end in order to find peace with God. But the way of obedience has no end. It lies endlessly before you, bringing continually severer demands and constantly growing indebtedness. If you seek peace on that road, you will not find peace, but the debt of ten thousand talents instead. But now Christ is the end of the law; the road ends at his feet, and here his righteousness is offered to everyone who believes. It is to that place, to Jesus only, that God has wanted to drive you with all your unrest and anguish of soul."

This is a good book and worth the read.  It is probably something you haven't considered before, but let me recommend it to you.

14 November 2012

Wreck It Ralph is Right On

Last weekend, I took the kids to see Wreck-It Ralph. I left the movie deeply moved and told several friends that it may very well be one of the best animated movies I have seen in a long time (Despicable Me belongs on that list as well).  I toyed with the idea of writing a review, but thankfully Mockingbird reviewed the movie, pointing out the folly of self-justification and the need for other directed love.  If you haven't seen the movie, there are some spoilers in the Mockingbird review, but if you read it, know that I think they are right on.  Also, if you haven't seen the movie, please do so. 

Patton on Overcoming Sin

Is it just me, or do some of the rest of you still struggle with sinning?  Assuming that there are at least a few of you who continue to sin, let me offer this helpful word from Michael Patton:

A few words of advice:
  1. If you have the opportunity, make a big change. This could be moving, getting a new job, or going on a long vacation. Sometimes our ruts have more power because they are built in to such a habit which can be facilitated some by our surroundings.
  2. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with the right people. This is not so they can ask you about your sin every day (as I said, this sometimes makes things worse), but so that you can be inspired by new examples. This could relate to #1 as you may have to get away from some bad examples.
  3. Don’t give yourself the opportunities to sin. Sometimes this comes in idle times. Being idle is the handmaiden of sin. Make sure you stay busy. If you don’t have a job, find ways to volunteer until you find one. Just make sure you are not sitting around staring at the wall. Stay busy.
  4. Run from those things that aggravate sin. Joseph ran from the wife of a man who wanted to sleep with him (Gen. 39:7). I don’t figure this was because he was so stong. It was probably because he knew he was so weak. Get rid of those things in your house or life that instigate this sin. Run from them. I had to run from my drinking buddies, whom I loved dearly, in order to even begin to recover. Some people need to get rid of friends too. Others need to get rid of cable, the internet, clear out their food pantry, or quit their job. It may seem drastic, but it’s the whole “If your hand causes you to stumble . . .” stuff Jesus talked about (Matt. 5:30).
  5. If possible, get involved at a deeper level at your local church. It is harder to sin when people are relying on you to stay strong. When you are the only one you disappoint when you fall into sin, it will be very hard to remain consistent. After all, it is easy to get used to letting ourselves down. It is harder to let the Body of Christ down.
  6. Never give up. One person has once said that the Christian life is a life of new beginnings every morning. You may live with this sin for a long time. It may plague you the rest of your life. But never give up the battle. Never quit bringing it to the Lord. He may allow it for a humbling weakness. I don’t know why he works the way he does, but I do know that giving up is not an option. If you have to pick yourself up off the ground and make a new beginning every morning for the rest of your life, join with me and do it!
  7. Finally, and most importantly, don’t quit accepting the grace and forgiveness of God. He forgives us an infinite amount of times (Matt. 18:22). I know how hard it get to accept God’s grace after the twenty-thousanth time I have fallen into the same sin. I know how you just want to say, “Just forget it. I am not asking for your grace again. I am too ashamed.” Don’t ever go there. God’s grace is enough to forgive you this time and the twenty-million times that follow. God’s grace is a radical, unbelievable, strange, and inexhaustible grace.
Remain encouraged my friend. There are few people who I know who are not in an ongoing battle with some sin. Those who say are not . . .well . . . they are lying!

I would strongly commend the rest of the article here.  

06 November 2012

Bye-Bye Tolerance

Recently, in the Huffington Post, Marilyn Sewell has written an opinion piece on why she is “saying goodbye to tolerance.”  She opened her piece by noting her membership in the “the most tolerant of faiths” the Unitarian Universalist church.  Despite her disposition toward tolerance, she is admittedly finding herself “increasingly intolerant of the theology and practice of many evangelical Christians.” 

She visited a conservative seminary where the students, who were “unfailingly polite,” have treated her like “an insect under glass”.  They were not confrontative [sic], but she perceived that they were concerned for her soul.  To my own way of thinking, I am not sure how being unfailingly polite is consistent with the image of Christians as supporting hate crimes, which she argues later in the piece. Indeed, politeness is an admirable trait.  Furthermore, I am not surprised by the students’ curiosity at her faith background.  She should know that as evangelicals, we are also accustomed to the type of scrutiny that she feels.  Curiosity about others’ beliefs is a good thing.  Finally, she surmises that the students were concerned for her eternal soul.  I have no doubt that is true; indeed I hope it is true. One of the hallmarks of evangelicalism is the belief in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Savior (John 14:6).  If we profess to be evangelical Christians, part of our identity involves concern for the souls of those around us.   We believe the Bible is objectively true and so our concern is objectively real, a facet that rarely enters this discussion--what is Truth? 

Sewell moves on, noting that “much of what [evangelicals] believe is unloving and in fact destructive.” She then provides the example of two nephews—one gay, one evangelical—and how the evangelical will not speak to his younger brother “presumably because his children might be adversely influenced.”  I am left wondering how she has come to this presumption.  Did she form her opinion about why they disagree and then make the data fit that presumption?  Perhaps there is a different reason these brothers do not get along that she knows nothing about.

Then she makes an unfortunate leap in her thinking.  She writes “of even more concern is the preponderance of hate crimes being committed against gays and minorities” and goes on to cite several statistics.  Indeed, there are many hate crimes being committed throughout the world.  Where she is in error, however, is in her apparent presumption that these hate crimes are either committed, or at least tacitly approved of, by evangelicals.  This is flatly false.  Christians were at the forefront of the abolition of slavery in England and in the United States.   Christians have been at the forefront of ethical treatment for prisoners.  Christians were deeply involved in trying to stop Hitler.  Christians continue to be involved in fighting against abortion, sex trafficking, and human exploitation around the globe.  I suspect that if she were to take the time to look at who has committed hate crimes, it would not generally be church-attending evangelicals.  She also fails to include the clear data that the 20th century has seen great movements of genocide in Germany, Rwanda, Cambodia, and other places at the hand of atheist regimes and atheist leaders. Evangelicals have consistently stood for the oppressed in the face of this tyranny. 

She later returns to the idea that for the evangelical, faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation, which is a stance that turns everyone else into an infidel, unbeliever, or moral pervert.  Her use of the word infidel is interesting and I suspect was chosen to associate evangelicals with Islamic extremists.  “Unbeliever” is also interesting because I would suspect that most people who don’t believe in Jesus would in fact be…well…unbelievers.  I am not sure evangelicals would choose any of those terms to describe others.  Yet, I suspect we would all assent to the idea that unbelievers are sinners.  So are believers.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Every person, Christian or not, is facing condemnation due to their sinfulness.  The only remedy for that sinfulness is Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross 2000 years ago.   

Later Sewell asks, “if these ‘others’ are offending God by their sins and are on their way to hell, what covert permission is being given to those inclined to act violently on their prejudices?” The Bible offers no covert or overt permission to act upon these prejudices.  Christians are to love others wholeheartedly and to turn the other cheek.  Do those professing Christ fail at that sometimes?  Certainly, but violence and hatred is not exclusive to those proclaiming to be evangelicals (whether they actually are evangelicals is a topic for another day).  Again, I suspect that if she were to dig into the data rather than making baseless assumptions, she would discover that those who hold to orthodox biblical teaching are among the least likely to act out violently. 

The irony that she seems to miss is that secular society has increasingly been intolerant of Christian beliefs.  Christians are regularly dissuaded from speaking about their faith.  Christians are not allowed to run their business practices as they wish.  She also apparently failed to include Christian martyrs in her list of hate crimes.  According to George Weigel, The International Bulletin of Missionary Research annual bulletin in 2011 noted that, “there have 270 Christian martyrs every 24 hours over the past decade.”  That’s one million Christians dead because of their faith.

In the end, she concludes “somewhere in the middle is the silence, the refusal to speak out against prejudice.”  I wonder, would she encourage others to speak out against the prejudice and intolerance toward Christians that she is advocating here?

In a way, I am glad that Marilyn Sewell is saying goodbye to tolerance. At least she is finally bringing to light what we evangelicals have known for years.  Tolerance applies universally...unless you are a Christian. 

03 November 2012

Uncaused, Undeserved Love

Thoughts from AW Tozer, from The Knowledge of the Holy: "We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as Thou art. Yet Thou hast declared Thine unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what Thou hast declared Thyself to be."

01 November 2012

Pro-Choice Bumper Stickers

This phrase, and the accompanying bumper sticker, are very popular with the pro-abortion set.  Scott Klussendorf shows the flaw with this line of thinking.  He writes,

Notice the bumper sticker completely transforms the nature of the abortion debate with a single word---"like."

When pro-life advocates claim that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being, they aren't saying they dislike abortion. They are saying it's objectively wrong, regardless of how one feels about it. Notice what's going on here. The pro-life advocate makes a moral claim that he believes is objectively true---namely, that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. The abortion-choice advocate responds by changing that objective truth claim into a subjective one about likes and dislikes, as if the pro-lifer were talking about a mere preference. But this misses the point entirely. As Francis J. Beckwith points out, pro-life advocates don't oppose abortion because they find it distasteful; they oppose it because it violates rational moral principles.

Imagine if I said, "Don't like slavery? Then don't own a slave." Or, "Don't like spousal abuse? Then don't beat your wife!" If I said such things, you would immediately realize I don't grasp why slavery and spousal abuse are wrong. They are not wrong because I personally dislike them. They are wrong because slaves and spouses are intrinsically valuable human beings who have a natural right not to be treated as property. Whether I personally like slavery or spousal abuse is completely beside the point. If I liked spousal abuse, you would rightly say I was sick! You wouldn't resign yourself to, "I guess abuse is right for you but not for me."

And yet this is precisely what the pro-choicer does. He reduces abortion to a mere preference and then declares, "Hands off! Keep the government out of the abortion business!"

Read the rest here.  

26 October 2012

An Inerrantist's Defence

Andrew Wilson, writing at Theology Matters, shares this brief poem on being an inerrantist.  He captures it well. 

If I began the book with “And God said”,
And supernovas went when I said, “go”,
And galaxies assembled at my word,
And every time I spoke, then it was so;
If all your problems started when the serpent
Cast doubt on whether I meant what I said,
And made you think that maybe, you knew better,
And you should be truth’s arbiters instead;
If lightning flashed and trumpet blasts rang forth
At Sinai when my holy voice was heard,
And if the worshippers to whom I look
Are those who humbly tremble at my word;
If every word of mine proves true and faithful;
If hearing my mere voice makes oceans quake;
If neither my apostles nor my prophets
Implied my words contained flaw or mistake;
If Jesus stated simply, “it is written”,
When Satan tried (and failed) to break his will,
And “how else will the Scriptures be fulfilled?”
Constrained him on his way to Calvary’s hill;
If leaders and confessions through the centuries
Proclaimed my word infallible and true,
And people died to spread it, and translate it,
So it could be accessible to you;
If all of Scripture is breathed out by God,
And thus is truly human and divine,
In such a way that every author’s phrasing
Is simultaneously both theirs and mine;
Then saying it does not contain mistakes
Might not imply pedantic, foolish youth;
Perhaps it speaks of courage, faith, submission,
And resolute commitment to the truth.

19 October 2012

Who I Am

Since I am in Christ, by the grace of God...
  • I have been justified--completely forgiven and made righteous (Rom. 5:1)
  • I died with Christ and died to the power of sin's rule over my life (Rom. 6:1-6)
  • I am free forever from condemnation (Rom. 8:1)
  • I have been placed into Christ by God's doing (1 Cor 1:30)
  • I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God (1 Cor 2:12)
  • I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
  • I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God (1 Cor 6:19-20)
  • I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come (2 Cor 1:21; Eph 1:13-14)
  • Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ (2 Cor 5:14-15)
  • I have been made righteous (2 Cor 5:21)
  • I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ's life (Gal 2:20)
  • I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3)
  • I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and am without blame before him (Eph 1:4)
  • I was predestined--determined by God--to be adopted as God's son (Eph 1:5)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven, and I am a recipient of His lavish grace (Eph 1:8)
  • I have been made alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5)
  • I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6)
  • I have direct access to God through the Spirit (Eph 2:18)
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)
  • I have been rescued from the domain of Satan's rule and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins, The debt against me has been canceled (Col 1:14)
  • Christ Himself is in me (Col 1:27)
  • I have been spiritual circumcised (Col 2:11)
  • I have been made complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
  • I have been buried, raised and made alive with Christ (Col 2:12-13)
  • I died with Christ and I have been raised up with Christ. My life is now hidden with Christ in God. Christ is now my life (Col 3:1-4)
  • I have been given a spirit of power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7)
  • I have been saved and set apart according to God's doing (2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5)
  • Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me brother (Heb 2:11)
  • I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God to find mercy and grace in time of need (Heb 4:16)
  • I have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by God by which I am a partaker of God's divine nature (2 Pet 1:4)
-Neil Anderson, Victory Over Darkness

18 October 2012

What of people who claim to have gone to heaven?

Lots of books seem to tell stories of those who claim to have gone to heaven.  Evangelical churches happily sponsor events for these individuals to speak.  However, the concept has just never sat quite right with me.  Today, Phil Johnson shares an article entitled The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine, that basically expresses what I think about these experiences.  To be clear, I think people who have near death experiences experience something, but I do not think what they are reporting is a visit to heaven.  Johnson quotes John MacArthur:

For anyone who truly believes the biblical record, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that these modern testimonies—with their relentless self-focus and the relatively scant attention they pay to the glory of God—are simply untrue. They are either figments of the human imagination (dreams, hallucinations, false memories, fantasies, and in the worst cases, deliberate lies), or else they are products of demonic deception.
We know this with absolute certainty, because Scripture definitively says that people do not go to heaven and come back: "Who has ascended to heaven and come down?" (Proverbs 30:4). Answer: "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13, emphasis added). All the accounts of heaven in Scripture are visions, not journeys taken by dead people. And even visions of heaven are very, very rare in Scripture. You can count them all on one hand.
I would commend the whole thing to you. 

13 October 2012

Two Books on the brain from a Christian perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Branson, Missouri to attend the American Association of Christian Counselors conference.  I was asked to be a respondent to two authors, Matthew Standford and Curt Thompson.  Each have written books that deal with the brain and Christian faith. 

Matthew Standford wrote The Biology of Sin (2010). In this book, he explores several conditions that are often labeled sinful including things like rage, homosexuality, lust, and so forth.  Stanford, a neuroscientist and professor at Baylor university, does a very good job of exploring the neurobiological underpinnings of a number of disorders without minimizing responsibility.  Further, as he did in his book, Grace for the Afflicted, he discusses how churches can appropriately respond to individuals who are dealing with mental illness.  I would strongly commend this book to you.

The second book, Anatomy of the Soul (2010), was written by Curt Thompson.  This book deals with the concept of interpersonal neurobiology.  Thompson contends that God created us to be known by others and that our brains were actually created in such a way that they function best in relationship.  Dr Thompson really talks a lot about bringing the more emotional right hemisphere online, which will help us to experience being known by both God and others, which ultimately contributes to greater mental health.  There are a few things that I have read that are paradigm shifters. I think this book is one of them, though I haven't fully realized this yet.  I disagree with some parts of his theology (he and I talked about this over a 3 hour dinner), but this book is certainly worth reading even despite those reservations. 

Book Review: Whiter Than Snow

Psalm 51 is my favorite psalm and Paul Tripp is one of my favorite teachers. In 2008, he published a series of 52 meditations, all based on this psalm of 19 verses. Psalm 51 is a wonderful reminder that God can mercifully forgive even the deepest sin.  Paul Tripp has ways of unfolding the layers of this psalm didactically and poetically.  If you are wondering if God's grace is big enough for your sin, Whiter Than Snow may be just the devotional for you. 

Brief Book Review: Transforming Grace

Transforming Grace (2008) by Jerry Bridges was another excellent book by Jerry Bridges who, as I have said previously, understands grace very well.  This book, like so many others of his, points us to the amazing grace of God, not only in salvation, but also in our transformation.  In chapter after chapter, Bridges reminds the reader that the Christian's standing with God is based upon His grace not our merit, which is a deeply freeing experience. 

Book Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (2012) is a very short by Tim Keller and each of the 48 pages is packed with meaning.  He is focusing on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7.  Early in the book, he wrote, "Up until the twentieth century, traditional cultures (and this is still true of most cultures in the world) always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people abused? Why are people cruel? Why do people do the bad things they do? Traditionally, the answer was hubris--the Greek word meaning pride or too high a view of yourself. Traditionally, that was the reason given for why people misbehave."  He then moves on to show that so much of our difficulty is grounded in the idea that we are able to live life without God.  It is only 99 cents on Kindle.  It will take you less than an hour to read.  Both are good investments.

09 October 2012

Balancing Truth and Love

Balancing truth and love must be one of the most difficult things. In fact, sometimes I think we conceive of them as near opposites. We regard those who speak with a word of truth as unloving. We consider those who appear to overlook offenses as failing to uphold a righteous standard.  Somewhere, though (I hesitate to say in middle because we must take care to not think of them as opposite concepts) truth and love can both prevail. 

During my drive this morning, I was thinking about the story in John 8:1-11 describing the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was at the temple getting ready to teach when the Pharisees showed up dragging a woman behind them.  They thrust her to the ground in front of Jesus and basically say, "This woman was just caught having sex with someone other than her husband.  Jesus, we know the law and the law says that we are supposed to stone her.  She's a cheater, and she deserves to die. What say you?"

I imagine this woman to be a heap of tears.  She knew she was caught. She probably knew the penalty even before they all showed up to condemn her.  Now, she was resigning herself to the fact that she would probably be killed, rightly according to the law. 

Jesus didn't respond by saying, "you are absolutely right.  Let's kill her."  Rather, something happened...a word from his mouth, perhaps something he wrote on the ground...to convince them all that they too were sinners under the law.  Something Jesus shared demonstrated that they were also deserving of condemnation. 

One by one, they dropped their stones and walked away.  She was left alone with Jesus. He said to her, "woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "no one Lord." He absolved her, saying "then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." 

This is such a great story.  The people who downplay the message of truth in favor of being loving (i.e., tolerant) love to point to this story.  They remind us that all of us have sinned and that Jesus' message was that we shouldn't judge anyone else.  Sin is passe. 

The truth folks cling to those last 5 words--"go and sin no more."  (They also like to remind others that this story was wasn't in the earliest manuscripts and there should not be considered authoritative at the same level that other biblical passages are).  They are quick to imply that Jesus didn't let her off the hook.

Who's right?

          Jesus is. 

The point of this story is not that Jesus said that all behaviors, all sins are okay now.  He was not approving of adultery.  The point of the story was not to browbeat others for their sins.  Rather, this is a story that shows truth and love each in full measure. 

Jesus knew that the Pharisees were right.  Under the law of Moses, she did deserve to be stoned to death.  Jesus also did not stop at "neither do I condemn you." His words were clear that what she did was sin and he told her to go and sin no more.  He wasn't overlooking her sin.  He wasn't minimizing the sin.  He was wasn't ignoring the sin.  He knew what it was and, in love, he told her to stop doing it. However, because of what he would accomplish on the cross, he could also tell her that she was not condemned. 

As churches and as Christians we have a challenging task.  We must remember how much Jesus loved sinners and offered them words of grace and hope.  We must also remember that sin is still a very real thing.  Finally we must remember that it is only through Christ's perfect law keeping and substitutionary atonement that we can tell people that they are no longer condemned. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.-Romans 8:1

02 October 2012

Book Review: The Furious Longing of God

Brennan Manning's The Furious Longing of God (2009) must have been a free Kindle offering some time back. I don't recall ever thinking that I must get a book from Brennan Manning.  In fact, I confess I had never heard of him.  He is probably best known for The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that deeply influenced the late Rich Mullins.

Manning is many things. He is a recovering alcoholic, writer, and former Franciscan priest.  He writes like a poet, employing beautiful language in often rambling prose.  He gets to his destination eventually, though he is not afraid to take unplanned detours along the way. 

The Furious Longing of God is about what it says.  It is about a God who loves His children passionately. He presents a view of God who rejoices over His children with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He seems to be calling us to remember, every day, the love of God. He then calls us to live in light of that love, pouring our lives into others. 

This is most certainly an engaging text.  Manning writes beautifully. He calls the believer to experience and understand God in ways that many of us probably never have.  This book, if read carefully, will probably generate more emotion than most books.  With that said, I don't think he is careful with his theology. He doesn't necessarily set out to be, but I think that some may read his work and come away with a different, or perhaps incomplete, impression of who God truly is.  In any case, this book is a good read, especially for us more cerebral types. 

"In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity."-Brennan Manning

01 October 2012

Book Review: The Chiveis Trilogy

Last night, I finally finished the Chiveis trilogy, a fictional series written by professor of theology Bryan Liftin.  The series is set in Europe, several centuries from now.  A war and plague have essentially wiped out modern technologies leaving groups of people and villages that seem in many ways, to be what would be expected 1000 years ago. 

More importantly to the story is that the Word of God has essentially disappeared.  People worship other "gods" but the God of the Bible has been systematically eliminated. There are those who know if it, but have diligently sought to remove all traces of it from the world. 

However, the two main characters, Teofil and Anastasia, meet and through a series of circumstances seek to learn more about the one God, Deu.  This trilogy tracks their adventures to learn the word of God and to stand up to all who would seek to destroy it. 

It is an interesting series.  I don't read much fiction these days, but I thoroughly enjoyed these books.  His writing is adequate and he knows how to keep the reader moving from chapter to chapter, wanting to know what happens next.  I would certainly commend it to you. 

25 September 2012

Satirical response to Jesus' Wife Hype

I suspect that many of you haven't even heard of this story yet. If you watch the History Channel, you will probably see it around Christmastime because this is the type of story they like to feature. Rather than exploring classical, historic Christianity, they often look for the new angle.  Anyway, there was a business card sized fragment dated from around 400 AD that makes reference to "Jesus' wife". It has no apparent connection with the well established, much earlier documents (i.e., the Bible).  Gene Veith features a video from Lutheran Satire that gets to the heart of this.  I strongly commend it to you this morning. 

24 September 2012

Are accountability groups incubators for moralism?

Tullian Tchvidjian expresses his dislike of accountability groups. 

He writes, "Setting aside the obvious objection that Christ settled all our accounts, once for all, such groups inevitably start with the narcissistic presupposition that Christianity is all about cleaning up and doing your part. These groups focus primarily (in my experience, almost exclusively) on our sin, and not on our Savior. Because of this, they breed self-righteousness, guilt, and the almost irresistible temptation to pretend, or to be less than honest. Little or no attention is given to the gospel. There’s no reminder of what Christ has done for our sin—cleansing us from its guilt and power—and of the resources that are already ours by virtue of our union with Him. These groups thrive, either intentionally or not, on a “do more, try harder” moralism that robs us of the joy and freedom Jesus paid dearly to secure for us. When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Savior, we actually begin to shrink spiritually"

Read the rest here.  

18 September 2012

I am just looking

I baked some farm cookies today. My own version.  Tessa and Ian have been happily helping me, mostly by offering to taste test.  I was in another room when I overheard Ian say, "hey, stay away from the cookies."  Tessa quickly responded, "I am just looking."  I came in to find her hovering over the cooling cookies. 

We treat sin that way sometimes, don't we?  We tell ourselves that we don't actually want to sin, but we just want to look at it.  We want smell it. We tell ourselves that we can stand in the face of the temptation.

But here's the thing, often we cannot.  We look, we long, we give in...eventually.

Proverbs 7 speaks to this lack of wisdom.  It tells of a young man wandering on the street on the wrong side of town.  He knows what kinds of things happen there, but he just wants a look.  Just one look. 

A woman comes to him.  She is seductive.  She tells him that she can fill all his wishes.  She offers to fill all his desires.  She also hints that there is no danger.  You see, her husband just left.  She tells him that she wants him.  She says that she is eager for him.  Her desire weakens his resolve.  His foundations crumble and eventually just give way.  Verses 22 and 23 tell the end of the story: "All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast, till an arrow pierces its liver, as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." 

Flee from sin, don't stop to "just look." 

Reflections on Centurions

This weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Landsdowne, Virginia for the first weekend residency of the Centurions Program.  For those of you who do not know, the Centurions program was started by Chuck Colson several years ago as a way to train Christians in leadership and worldview. Every year, they select about 100 people representing a broad range of demographics.  The program runs for 1 year and involves a lot of reading, written responses, and two residencies.

When I arrived on Friday, I met a few other Centurions at the airport while we were awaiting the shuttle.  It was great to connect with people right away and find others who were as excited about biblical worldview as I am.  We were transported to the National Conference Center, which in some ways seemed like a college campus.  The rooms were small, but comfortable. The cafeteria style food was abundant (perhaps too abundant) and generally tasty.  But I didn't go for the room and board.

Friday evening, we were treated to talks by Jim Liske, the CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Cornelius Plantinga, author of Not the Way it is Supposed to Be (as well as many other books); and John Stonestreet, host of Breakpoint.  Jim Liske issued a call to us to make sure that Jesus was to be our focus every day and that we must lock onto truth in our culture. He called for leadership in all facets of society, which is certainly a part of the program.  Plantinga was perhaps the speaker I was most looking forward to hearing. His book, Not the Way it is Supposed to Be was exceptional and I wanted to hear the man who wrote this "Breviary of Sin" talk on the topic.  He did not disappoint.  He talked about the pervasiveness of corruption, making the point that it is dynamic and progressive.  John Stonestreet closed out the evening, speaking on the issue of worldview and why it matters. He is an exceptional speaker. When I hear people on the radio, I sometimes wonder if they sound eloquent just because they have their notes prepared.  That was not the case with John.  Though he was very well prepared, even his responses to questions were wise and engaging.  I was able to visit with him for a bit afterwards and talk about some of the issues that I perceived affecting modern young men.

Saturday was a whirlwind.  The Dean of the Program, TM Moore spoke briefly on St Patrick, providing an informative historical sketch of a man who deeply influenced his culture because of his love for Christ and others.  The always active faculty member Glenn Sunshine presented "How we Got Here" a lecture based upon his book Why You Think the Way You Do, a historical overview of the development of thought.  Many people have not thought through how much what their forbears have done influenced the culture they now live in.  Steve Verleye closed out the morning by discussing how to become an embedded believer.  The afternoon focused on breakout sessions focused on revival, renewal, and awakening.  I liked these smaller sections because they allowed for a little bit more intimacy.  In the evening, Bob Lynn a pastor from Ann Arbor discussed Gospel and worldview, another excellent talk.  The highlight of this day for me was the panel discussion in the evening, where all of the speakers gathered and answered questions from the audience.

Sunday morning offered no reprieve. We began early with group discussions of what we have learned so far followed by a lecture by Glenn Sunshine on "Christians who changed their world."  He focused on individuals who have had a significant effect, but that may be less well known.  We finished the day with a worship and communion service led by TM Moore. 

The weekend was exceptional and exhausting. I am quite sure I have not yet processed what I have learned.  That will take months...years perhaps. I do know that I left with a greater hunger to live in light of the Kingship of Christ in all areas of my life.  Christ is not Lord of my heart only, he is Lord of ALL.  My desire is to live in light of that reality, but also to have others learn that truth.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to the weekend was meeting great folks from around the country.  I look forward to deepening our friendships in the months and years to come. 

I am eager to talk about the program, so if you have questions about it, please let me know! 

    The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,
        the world and those who dwell therein,
    for he has founded it upon the seas
        and established it upon the rivers.

-Psalm 24:1-2

13 September 2012

Jason Bourne and Real Manhood

Owen Strachan tackles the issue of manhood.  He looks to Jeremy Renner's character in the most recent Bourne movie to start a discussion of manhood.  Although there are certainly characteristics of Renner's character that do not fit biblical manhood either, he offers some good reflections. 

He writes, "it struck me afresh how impressive the lead character of the Bourne movie is as a man.  He’s in control, assertive, aware of others, physically fine-tuned, and one who meets any challenge in front of him.  This kind of man is strikingly different than another avatar of modern cinema, the boy-man, who pops up repeatedly in the films made or led by Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and many others.

"The boy-man is selfish, young, immature, addicted to games, immune to responsibility, foul-mouthed, and weak.  He’s overwhelmed by adulthood, so he chooses to stay in some sort of boyish fantasy.  He doesn’t want to build big things, meaningful things, like a family, a six-decade marriage, a socially and personally profitable career, or a gospel-driven church or missions effort.  He wants to make music, play games, follow sports, flirt with girls, loaf through life, bend the rules so he’s not accountable or inconvenienced in his selfishness, and ignore the need to help others.

"I want to suggest that wherever you can as a young man or one involved in any way in training young men, you point them toward manhood, maturity, adulthood, responsibility, ambition, strategy, vision, focus.  Yes, it can be fun to be boyish.  But you know what’s far more satisfying?  Becoming something.  Becoming something greater than you are.  Becoming a man.  Building stuff."

 I would commend the article here