28 February 2012

When you assume it makes...well, you know

Kevin DeYoung writes on the importance not making assumptions. 

Don’t assume you know all the facts after hearing one side of the story.
Don’t assume the person is guilty just because strong charges are made against him.
Don’t assume you understand a blogger’s heart after reading one post.
Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity won’t read what you write and don’t assume they won’t care what you say.
Don’t assume the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.
Don’t assume the single mom isn’t following Jesus.
Don’t assume the guy from the Mission is less of a man or less of a Christian.
Don’t assume the pastor looking for work is a bad pastor.
Don’t assume the church that struggles or fails is a bad church.
Don’t assume you’d be a better mom.
Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.
Don’t assume your parents are clueless.
Don’t assume everyone should drop everything to attend to your needs, and don’t assume no one will.
Don’t assume the rich are ungenerous.
Don’t assume the poor are lazy.
Don’t assume you know what they are all like after meeting one or two of their kind.
Don’t assume you should read between the lines.
Don’t assume you have interpreted the emotions of the email correctly.
Don’t assume everyone has forgotten about you.
Don’t assume they meant to leave you off the list.
Don’t assume everyone else has a charmed life.
Don’t assume a bad day makes her a bad friend.
Don’t assume the repentance isn’t genuine.
Don’t assume the forgiveness isn’t sincere.
Don’t assume God can’t change you.
Don’t assume God can’t love you.
Don’t assume God can’t love them.

Read the rest here.  

Little miss red shoes

Tim Challies linked to this story of a brave little girl in Uganda, raped repeatedly by a family member. It breaks my heart because I can see my children in her. 

The author writes, "Little Miss Red Shoes goes to school with her friends. She's in second grade. She lives with her mother and an aunt. Her father left the family years ago, though she thinks she saw him sometime in the last year. Her mom is HIV positive on treatment, sells little bits of beans and corn for a living, and often turns to the local church for assistance. Little Miss Red Shoes lives about a kilometer from me, in a community full of hospital workers and dedicated Christians. But that did not protect her, or at least five friends she could name including one girl in nursery school, from being raped three times in the last year by two teenage neighbor boys."

Read the rest here and pray for the deliverance of these innocent little ones.

26 February 2012

Book Review: Against Calvinism

Late last year, a pair of books was released by Zondervan addressing two sides of a theological discussion. The books are For Calvinism by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. It will be no surprise to the readers of this blog that on the whole, I think Calvinism is the best explanation of the biblical record. So, this pair of books by two well studied professors of theology was much anticipated. 

I chose to read Against Calvinism first. Olson hints that he wants to provide a biblically rigorous defense of classical Arminianism, showing it to be a superior view of the biblical record.  He also suggests that he wants to present his case, as well as possible, in a non-adversarial way that doesn't caricature Calvinism.  Unfortunately, within the first 20 pages, he does just that, criticizing the stereotypes of the young, restless, and reformed (YRR) rather than dealing with Calvinism on its merits. Beyond that, it seems that his stereotypes are also inaccurate, for example suggesting that most contemporary followers of Calvinism are "largely unaware of Calvinists before John Piper" (p. 18). If anything, it seems to me that many of the YRR crowd are demonstrating an uncommonly strong dedication to reading old theologians. Similarly, he routinely goes after certain Calvinists: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, Lorraine Boettner, and RC Sproul. I was surprised that he stuck with these few.  For example, why was Charles Spurgeon, a self avowed Calvinist who is very popular among the YRR crowd, excluded from his challenges?

As he begins to deal with Calvinism proper, he seems to mischaracterize the system regularly. For example, on page 99, he wrote "the high Calvinist doctrine of God's sovereignty including evil as a part of God's plan, purpose, and determining power", suggesting that the God of Calvinism creates evil. From what I have read, none of the Calvinists he critiques would say God is the author of evil, though it is certainly allowed as a part of his sovereign plan. At one point later in the book, he makes the utterly ridiculous claim that "it is [his] view that Calvinism, with its doctrine of atonement as securing salvation in a necessary way so that all for whom Christ died must be saved, leads to universalism" (p. 150). This demonstrates a flat misunderstanding of Calvinism that is frankly pretty elementary for a professor of theology so committed to defeating Calvinism. 

On page 110, he writes "Like everyone else, Calvinists should be willing to at least consider the possibility that there are serious deficiencies and flaws in their doctrinal beliefs." This is entirely true. This book has helped me to look at Calvinism more critically. Although Olson raises many questions to be dealt with, I still think Calvinism is the best explanation for the whole story of scripture. It is certainly worth reading and I do hope that my young friends who read a lot of Calvinist writings will read this book. Olson will challenge your thinking, which is a good thing.

A piece of my heart in Haiti


On February 18 (18 Fevriye), we left Ian and Tessa in the very capable hands of our dear friends, Zach and Sara Fugate and drove to Chicago. Heather was nauseous on the trip and actually vomited when we got to the hotel. I was afraid we were in for a rough week.  We stayed overnight and on Sunday we flew to Miami. After a late dinner at Ping's Wok, we retired for the evening, knowing we would have to be up very early to fly to Port-au-Prince. We met some new friends in the lobby who are also adopting and we left for the airport.

We had been warned about the airport in Port-au-Prince, but I confess it was not as bad as I had envisioned. We were greeted with Caribbean music at the entrance (provided by Digicel), lightening the tension right away. Immigration and customs were a breeze. We had been told about the waves of people wanting to help with our bags, but we were told to "just say 'no'" and keep walking until we saw "Big", a man who helped with our bags. He called our names and I said "no", but he called out again and said the name of Angie, and so we followed him. 

After we loaded up in our van, we toured Port-au-Prince. In some ways, I was more shocked than I expected, for example at the number of people. In most ways, though, I confess that I was less shocked. The squalor was less than I anticipated. There were certainly areas of garbage and a lot of rubble, but much of it was cleaned up and more orderly. Traffic was organized chaos. The traffic laws we follow here don't really apply there. They rely much more upon their horns and aggressive driving tactics to get around.  Cars, motorcycles, and tap-taps whiz by just inches from one another, yet there is no apparent road rage like here. 

There are vendors everywhere selling every imaginable ware--bananas, car parts, plastic chairs and more. We did see one fight break out, but we kept driving. Midway, we hopped out to take pictures of the collapsed presidential palace and we were immediately surrounded by vendors.

Eventually, we made our way to Maison des Enfants de Dieu, the orphanage where our children live. We waited anxiously on the porch for the kids. Vladimy came out first. He immediately crawled into Heather's lap and they embraced for at least a couple of minutes. Then I got to hold him. He is definitely a snuggler. Yoldine came out next. She was a bit more guarded at first, but she did sit in our laps too. Very soon, she grabbed Grace's hand and took her on a tour of the orphanage. We got to play with lots and lots of beautiful children. 

The orphanage has a large courtyard, covered mostly in gravel. The kids live in cement bunkrooms with several other children, mostly sleeping on crib mattresses. In the courtyard, the nannies do the cooking and laundry. The kids eat at long tables in the courtyard, often beans and rice or a variant. Their portions are large, which makes me happy. Vladimy eats all of his, but I observed Yoldine giving part of hers away a couple of times. The beans and rice we had, which was served with a creole sauce, was truly excellent. I would eat that regularly.

Later on, we all went back to the hotel. It was a comfortable place, but very different from most $200/night hotels I have stayed at in the past. No A/C, couldn't drink the water, and no hot showers. But I loved it there. We soon jumped in the pool. To our surprise, Yoldine was insane in the water, but Vladimy was much more hesitant. I think she would have stayed in the pool all the time.  Vladimy would be in for a few moments, but then quit. He was happier playing around the edge of the pool.

The children's personalities were in many ways as I expected. Vladimy laughed 98% of the time. He talked, in Creole, non-stop. We asked Yoldine if he talks all the time. She said, "oui." He played with lots of different toys and enjoyed it when Heather read to him.  He has some food issues. He eats a lot and holds his food tightly in his fist.  He was frequently heard to be saying, "Manjay", which means "eat" or "food".  Another eye opening thing for us was that in Haiti, they apparently do not tell children no very often before the age of five. So, correcting behavior was often a challenge, though there was clear improvement through the week.

Yoldine, who started out very quiet, came out of her shell quickly. She is a goofy, funny, happy girl.  She loves playing with the doll, having her hair done, and dancing. She attached very well to Grace particularly. She also loves "the game", in other words my ipad. We asked her if she wanted pizza or spaghetti for dinner and we got an emphatic "OUI!"

We spent the week mostly playing games, communicating as well as we could, and just loving our kids. It was so much fun to learn their personalities.

Thursday we had to go to the embassy and we were there for 4-5 hours. I got dehydrated and was dealing with caffeine withdrawal, unfortunately. The process was long, but we made it through. We also had to go to court. We stopped in the middle of a large market place with hundreds of people and had to get out, thankfully under the watchful eye of Sufran, our security. We walked into a dark room, the size of a bathroom with a desk, a fan, and three people. We had to sign our names to a notebook that had pages handwritten in creole. I may have signed a recipe for fried plantains, for all I know.

Thursday night, we had to bring the kids back to the orphanage. Yoldine's guard went back up. Vladimy wept. They each kept a part of our hearts and I cannot wait for the days to pass to see them again.  I really would like to have all of my kids together, even there, if God will's it.  We don't know the timeline yet, but I promise it will not be fast enough.

We are now back in the U.S.A., part of us anyway. We would treasure your prayers for our family. We ask that God would allow the time to pass quickly until we see them again, that He would watch over us all, and that His "what" and His "when" would come to pass.

Here are two videos I clipped together. 

At Maison-February 2012 from Jason Kanz on Vimeo.

Haiti Adoption February-Hanging out with the kids from Jason Kanz on Vimeo.

Here is a link to our public facebook albums.

From Maison

From the hotel

17 February 2012

Your sin is finite, but God is not

Joe Thorn posted a wonderful quote from William Bridge today. I need to hear this sort of thing on a daily basis. 

But again you say, suppose that a man’s sins be exceeding great, gross and heinous; for I do confess that possibly a godly man may sin some sin against his light, and against his conscience sometimes; but as for me, my sin is exceeding great, gross and heinous, and have I not just cause and reason now to be discouraged?

No, not yet, for though your sin be great, is not God’s mercy great, exceeding great? Is not the satisfaction made by Christ great? Are the merits of Christ’s blood small? Is not God, the great God of heaven and earth, able to do great things? You grant that God is almighty in providing for you, and is He not almighty also in pardoning? Will you rob God of His almightiness in pardoning? You say your sin is great, but is it infinite? Is not God alone infinite? Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ? Is Jesus Christ only a Mediator for small sins? Will you bring down the satisfaction of Christ, and the mercy of God, to your own model? Has not the Lord said concerning pardoning mercy, that His “thoughts are not as our thoughts, but as the heavens are greater than the earth, so are his thoughts (in this respect) beyond our thoughts”? Has not the Lord said, in Isaiah 43 unto the people of the Jews, at verses 22-24, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offering, neither hast thou honored me with thy sacrifices…Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” Yet, verse 25, “I even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Here are sins, and great sins; and if the Lord will therefore pardon sin because it is great, unto His people, then surely they have no reason to be quite discouraged in this respect.

Being a man of character

What does it take to be a man of character?  Carl Trueman has recently started a series on 1 Timothy 3, addressing this question.

Although the full essay is worth considering, I particularly appreciated this paragraph:

"This is one more reason why Paul typically assumes overseers and elders will be older people.  The knowledge of which hills one must die on, which battles need not be fought, and that sometimes it takes a long time to move a congregation to where they should be, if one is to do it without hurting people - this knowledge is something that comes with age.  I cringe every time I remember things I have done in the past and give thanks that God kept me out of the ministry until I was past the age of forty and had grown up a little bit.  Put some thirty-something punk in a pulpit and guess what?  He'll be playing ACDC during the worship service, using explicit language in his stand-up routine, dressing like a superannuated teenager, screaming down his critics as `haters' and refusing to visit the sick in hospital until they are in body bags.   But hey, those things would surely never happen....." (Google "Perry Noble" if you don't quite catch his meaning.)

He also briefly takes on the issue of pornography use among pastors, surmising that it may be the number one issue among candidates for the ministry. No doubt he is right. 

Read the rest here

Hitchens, Dawkins, and atheistic fundamentalism

Mike Horton wrote an excellent, albeit long, essay examining the ill-formed beliefs of the New Atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.  He rests heavily upon Marxist scholar Terry Eagleton's recently published Reason, faith, and revolution: Reflections on the God debate

Horton writes,

In their sweeping generalizations “New Atheists” are woefully ignorant of the actual teachings of Christian theology. Making light work for themselves, they are attacking a view of God, the world, and the relationship of faith and reason that may circulate in pop culture and may characterize extreme sects here and there but can hardly be equated with the serious (and reasoned) arguments of centuries. “As far as theology goes,” writes Eagleton, “Ditchkins [Eagleton believes the views of Dawkins and Hitchens are so interchangable, he often refers to them as 'Ditchkins'] has an enormous amount in common with Ian Paisley and American TV evangelists.” “Both parties agree pretty much on what religion consists in; it is just that Ditchkins rejects it while Pat Robertson and hiss unctuous crew grow fat on it…So it is that those who polemicize most ferociously against religion regularly turn out to be the least qualified to do so, rather as many of those who polemicize against literary theory do not hate it because they have read it, but rather do not read it because they hate it.” Eagleton is hardly finished with the rhetorical barbs. “Ditchkins on theology,” he adds, “is rather like someone who lays claim to the title of literary criticism by commenting that there are some nice bits in the novel and some scary bits as well, and it’s all very sad at the end.” In fact,

God is Not Great is also a fine illustration of how atheistic fundamentalists are in some ways the inverted mirror image of Christian ones. And not just in their intemperate zeal and tedious obsessiveness. Hitchens argues earnestly that the Book of Genesis doesn’t mention marsupials; that the Old Testament Jews surely couldn’t have wandered for forty years in the desert; that the capture of the huge bedstead of the giant Og, king of Bashan, might never have occurred at all, and so on…Fundamentalism is in large part a failure of the imagination, and in his treatment of Scripture (as opposed, say, to his reading of George Orwell or Saul Bellow), Hitchens’s imagination fails catastrophically…In any case, you do not settle the question of whether, say, the New Testament is on the side of the rich and powerful by appealing to what most people happen to believe, any more than you verify the Second Law of Thermodynamics by popular acclaim. You simply have to argue the question on the evidence as best you can.
By the way, I’d add that the New Atheists in many ways are not only mirroring their fundamentalist nemesis; they are also trading in a kind of old-fashioned positivism that few scientists themselves would hold today, dividing neatly between “fact” and “value,” as if science were concerned with the former and religion with the latter. We shouldn’t be too hard on atheists, by the way, since liberal theologians largely paved the way for this dualism.

This essay is certainly long and in many ways more academic than much writing, but it is rich. If you have the time and are willing to put in the hard work, I think you will benefit from reading the whole thing here

16 February 2012

Which kills more--muggers or disease?

Carl Trueman, with his classic British sense and straightforward Christian sensibility writes a brief, albeit important essay on the church. Importantly, he asks what does the most damage to the church, vocal atheists like Richard Dawkins or irreverence within.  Though Trueman makes no clear conclusion, I know what his would be, and I agree with him. 

Read it here.  Also, if you have gone so far as to read his essay, click through to the two links he provides to add context. 

15 February 2012

7 Ways to Worry Well

Jared Wilson shares 7 ideas, taken from Philippians 4:5-7, about how to really worry and "kill the thanksgiving impulse."  If you ignore the advice of the Philippians passage, this is how you might succeed in being a worrier.
  1. Freak out about everything.
  2. Practice practical atheism.
  3. Coddle worry.
  4. Give God the silent treatment.
  5. Don't expect anything from God.
  6. Relentlessly try to figure everything out. 
  7. Focus on anything other than the gospel of Jesus.
I know some of you need to read this, so you can find the rest here.  

14 February 2012

You need more than words

David Matthis offers advice to seminary students that is appropriate to all Christians.  He writes,

And keep in mind that having a daily “quiet time” or “devotions,” without communing with Jesus, won’t keep your soul alive. Mere reading and studying won’t do it. By itself, new information about God—glorious as it is—won’t keep our hearts soft and our souls breathing. We need the person of Jesus himself whom we find in and through the Scriptures. Our souls long for a living connection with the living God-man. We were made for this.

We can never afford to settle for anything less than the words of the Bible, but extreme as it may seem, our souls need more than words, more than facts, more than studies and new head knowledge. We need the Word himself. Our souls need Jesus to survive. And for now, the devotional imbibing of the Scriptures is an essential place to find him.

Read the rest here.  

13 February 2012

Obama's twin gospels

Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post puts a finger on recent news out of Washington, tying together the frayed ends of Obama administration policy.  Krauthammer, like many of us, recognizes the inconsistencies in the Obama administration. Like a traveling band of actors, they seem most willing to adjust their show to most please the audience at hand. 

Krauthammer writes,

To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.

The contradiction is glaring, the hypocrisy breathtaking. But that’s not why Obama offered a hasty compromise on Friday. It’s because the firestorm of protest was becoming a threat to his re-election. Sure, health care, good works and religion are important. But re-election is divine.

 Read the whole thing here

10 February 2012

Getting away

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.-Luke 5:16

A few times recently, I have happened across verses pointing out that Jesus would take time to get away to pray. He made a regular habit of getting alone to talk with the Father. He was sinless--he was God--and yet the gospel writers are clear to tell us that he made time to commune with the Father. 

My world is rarely quiet. When quietness is upon me, I fill it with things other than prayer. I tend to read when it is quiet, or check facebook again.  I do not purposely seek out times of solitude and prayer, however.

As I have been reflecting upon this today, I wonder what arrogance I bring that leads me to believe that I do not need times alone to pray when it was clearly important to the Sinless One. In looking at it another way, I believe his focused prayer helped keep him from sinning. 

How well do you do with times of prayer in desolate places? 

Daily Reading: Luke 5, Deuteronomy 15, Ephesians 1, 2 Thessalonians 3, Job 25, Psalm 21, Proverbs 21, 2 Chronicles 24, Amos 1, Romans 3

08 February 2012

How do we apprentice our children

Trevin Wax shares some insight in to the loss of the apprenticeship as a means of educating our children. For millenia, children learned at the hip of their parents and eventually a mentor. That method of training seems to have disappeared in many regards. Perhaps we should think of ways to rekindle that approach.

07 February 2012

Christianity and Taxes

Gene Veith shares some interesting insights on the president's recent statements at the presidential prayer breakfast, where he uses scripture to defend his position of taxing the rich.  He quotes Mary Theroux as saying, "Yes, that Jesus was always looking for ways to make Rome more powerful!" and then goes on to remind that, "The text that the president cites (Luke 12:48), in context, does not refer to taxes, but it can apply to money as to everything else.  A person who has received much FROM GOD has much that is required BY GOD.  Not the federal government!   The president here is putting the federal government squarely in the place of God!"

Read the rest here

05 February 2012

Two weeks

Two weeks from today, Heather, Grace, and I make the drive to Chicago on the first leg of our trip to Haiti.  Fourteen days from now.  To bring everyone up to speed, we are adopting two beautiful siblings, Yoldine (age 7) and Vladimy (age 5). They currently live in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

Normally, I don't fret travel. A day before hand, I will throw some stuff in a suitcase, print off my tickets and head to the airport. I always figure, if I don't make it, no big deal. This time though, I am simultaneously nervous and excited. Nervous because this is the first time I have done any international travel (sorry Canada, you don't count). This is my first time in a 3rd world country (you don't count for that either Canada). This is Grace's first time traveling. Ian and Tessa are staying behind.  All of these things make me nervous. 

On the other hand, we get to meet our kids for the first time and that's exciting. Though we have known about them for some time, they have not known about us.  They tell the kids right before families travel. 

Pray for us as we travel. Pray for Ian and Tessa as well as the Fugates, who are staying with our kids. Pray for Yoldine and Vladimy that their hearts would be ready for us.

03 February 2012

Presidential prayer breakfast: A review

World Magazine has a good summary of the presidential prayer breakfast. I would commend the whole article to you.  However, I have a few thoughts. 

I was glad to read that Eric Metaxas was the keynote speaker. From what I have gathered he spoke boldly about Jesus, proclaiming him as "the enemy of dead religion."  He went further to speak out boldly against abortion. He apparently noted that the Germans of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's time (Metaxas wrote a biography of Bonhoeffer) viewed some people as less than human, just as many do today. 

Obama also spoke. He apparently cited several Bible verses in support taxing the rich in support of the poor, which are taken out of context to be sure. Without a doubt, the Bible is a strong advocate of caring for the poor and loving the least of these, but that is a mission of the church, not the government.  Plucking verses out of scripture without keeping all of God's word in view is bad exegesis.  The president also apparently aligned himself with Catholic Charities, claiming his administration has linked arm in arm with faith-based groups across the country.  I suspect that Catholic Charities may not view it in the same way.