31 March 2012

Book Review: The Masculine Mandate

I won this book, The Masculine Mandate, along with two of Richard Phillips's other books, Jesus the Evangelist and What's so Great About the Doctrines of Grace? a year or two ago.  This one has been sitting on my shelf that whole time.  I have grabbed it a few times, only to reshelve it for later.  I wish I would not have waited. This is simply one of the best, most accessible books on Christian manhood that I have read. 

Phillips begins early by challenging the ideas of one of the most popular books on masculinity, Wild at Heart, but he doesn't dwell there.  Instead, he moves quickly to developing a biblically informed view of manhood.  Specifically, expanding upon Genesis 2, he identifies the themes that we are to "work" and "keep". 

After he develops this model, he demonstrates what this looks like practically.  He discusses the role of loving leadership in fatherhood and marriage. He also talks about the importance of male friendships and how we must minister to one another.  Finally, he talks directly about the importance of men being in the church, being leaders, and ministering to others.  This theme in particular seems to run contrary to some of the wildly individualistic men's stuff that has come out.

I would commend this read to any Christian man.  It is a clear, understandable explanation of what it means to be a man. 

4.5 stars. 

30 March 2012

Boromir, The ring of power, and a jackpot

I really appreciated Tim Kimberly's thoughts on the huge lottery jackpot that now exists.  It is over 500 million, I have heard.  He clearly expresses many of the thoughts that I have had.  I have wondered how many people, even those who know about the often unfortunate futures of lottery winners, think they will be different.  How many believe they will not succumb to the many problems that so often accompany these huge winnings. 

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:  "But couldn’t I give all the money to charity?  Yes, I’ve been thinking about this scenario.  I win $500+ million dollars and pay off my house.  Once my house is paid off I set aside a tiny bit for retirement and my children.  I then give 99% of it to charities making a real difference.  If people hit me up for money I can honestly tell them the money is gone, it’s all been given away.  I do not trust, however, that scenario.  I feel like a human looking at the ring in Frodo’s hand and saying, 'Give it to me.  I’ll take good care of it. It won’t corrupt me.'  Every good parent withholds certain things from their children.  We don’t give them a pound of twizzlers, it will make them sick.  Likewise, I believe it is usually the grace of God to withhold this kind of money from his children."

Read the whole thing and consider wisely before buying that ticket.  

Pornography: What good news are you offering?

At Covenant Eyes, Tim Chester asks the question, "what good news are you offering to those struggling with sexual sin?" making the point that 1 in 3 Christians struggle with issues regarding sexual sin and that we live in a culture that frankly assumes sex outside of marriage to be the norm.

He writes, "A recent survey suggested that one in two evangelical men and one in five evangelical women are struggling with pornography. Other surveys bear out these proportions. This means that when you look out on your congregation on a Sunday morning, one in three people are struggling with pornography. What good news are you offering them?

"The chances are many of them think they’re the only ones who are struggling. They may think they’re disqualified from Christian service by their sin, perhaps even from the Christian family. They hide their guilt, terrified of being exposed. Yet at the same time they may long to share their problem. What good news are you offering them?

"Or maybe they’ve told someone and were met by barely masked repulsion. Or maybe the person they told was sympathetic, but didn’t know how to bring hope to the situation or how to offer accountability. What good news are you offering them?"

Read the rest here.  

Book Review: Bonhoeffer

A year or two ago, I read The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and found it to be one of the most challenging, yet encouraging books I had read.  In fact, one of my favorite quotes comes from that book, "Besides Jesus, nothing has any significance. He alone matters." As I tried to learn more about Bonhoeffer, however, it became clear that many academics have not considered him to be an evangelical, but rather that he fits much more in line with liberal theology.  I simply did not see it. 

Eric Metaxas's biography of this man, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2011) clearly casts Bonhoeffer as an evangelical. By referring to Bonhoeffer's own writings and communications, he shows that Bonhoeffer was committed to a biblical worldview that was more than just by name only.  He read the Bible and he believed it, putting it into practice. 

Still, Bonhoeffer was a controversial character.  Timing and circumstances located him in a well-to-do family in Germany in the 1920s to 1940s. Because of my work as a neuropsychologist, I was interested to discover that his father was a very famous psychiatrist who was trained by Karl Wernicke, one of the most important historical figures in behavioral neurology.  Dietrich, though, decided early in life to be a theologian.  He led orthodox factions of the German church at that time, he discipled other young men, and he called the church to repentance.  He is perhaps most famous, however, for his role in conspiring to assassinate Hitler.  He believed that Hitler was evil incarnate and that it was not counter to his worldview to stop his tyranny.  He did not succeed, but was himself hanged by the Third Reich for conspiring against the fuhrer. 

Though long, this is a very enjoyable read.  It shows evidence of a man guided by his faith and living out a life of biblical principle. 

4 stars. 

An adoptee's story

Maggie Paulus writes of her experiences as a biological child, a foster, child, an adopted child, and a child of God. 

"When I was just a little girl, like a wee little thing, I had a different mom and dad. And they were kind to me, but they had hurts and they had addictions and they didn't know how to take care of themselves, much less a wee girl and her little brother.

"I mean, they tried. They hung on to us for several years, but things kept slipping and they kept falling and failing and they mustered up what strength they could, but they just couldn't make it work and they couldn't make it right. And so the policemen came over and over again, and took us away and my mama cried in the back of that police car, hands cuffed, and she told me that she loved me. And I knew in my little heart, as I looked up at her, tears streaming and mascara running, I knew that she really did love me. She just couldn't make it work."

I would recommend the whole thing here.  

HT: Challies

28 March 2012

Interested in apologetics, but don't know where to start?

Brian Auten shares an apologetics reading plan for beginners.  I think he has put together a really good list for people interested in learning more about the defense of the faith.  I've read about half of the books and they are great places to begin.  You can find the list here

26 March 2012


As a the father of two biological children, an Ethiopian daughter and soon to be father of a Haitian daughter and son, the killing of Trayvon Martin has affected me more deeply than I would have anticipated.  I am left with so many questions and few answers. 

  • What will I tell my children, when they are old enough to understand, that sometimes people are killed because of the color of their skin? 
  • How can I explain to them that the way a person dresses, walks or talks sometimes brings hate to the surface?  
  •  How will I reassure them that they are safe when racial tension is so alive and well?   
  • How do I teach my sons to love others well, stay humble, and have a heart of service?   
  • How do I instruct my sons to be servant leaders in their homes and churches rather than giving in to what society expects them to be?   
  • Why will I have to explain to my daughters that there may be some neighborhoods where they are just not safe?   
  • How will I comfort my son when someone calls him a racial slur for no reason?   
  • Would it be better for all of us if we lived somewhere else?   
  • What will I say when they ask, “was I treated that way because I did something wrong?”   
  • How will I let them know that there are some well-meaning people who want to sweep racial differences under the rug and pretend life is the same for people of all colors, when it just isn’t?   
  • What will I feel when they want to explore their identities and relationships in much deeper ways independent from us?   
  • Are we doing the right thing? 

Though I am more settled on some of the questions than others, there are no easy answers.  I do believe that I have been called to be a husband and a father.  I believe that God has, so far, entrusted five children to my care.  I don’t know what the future holds and I am okay with the unknown.  God has a habit of not revealing his entire plan in advance.   I continue to learn to trust Him, knowing that my job is to keep moving forward, living in light of what I do know and leaving the rest to Him. 

24 March 2012

Book Review: The Good News We Almost Forgot

I began reading The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism by Kevin DeYoung (2010) about a year ago.  In this book, Kevin DeYoung walks readers through the Heidelberg Catechism, which is used by the Reformed tradition.  DeYoung divides the book into 52 chapters, appropriate for 1 year, just as the original catechism was arranged. 

If I remember correctly, we used this catechism for Bible Class when I was young.  I dreaded Wednesday nights and usually spent my time screwing around, not paying attention to what we were learning. I would memorize what I was supposed to memorize, but would quickly forget it.  Much like other topics (e.g., history), I find that as an adult, I have a much deeper appreciation. 

Catechisms provide a systematic way of learning and remembering what the Bible says.  There are some wonderful catechisms available, the Heidelberg among them.  Kevin DeYoung does a very commendable job of clarifying the catechism and contextualizing it for modern Christians.  He points out that it is largely a commentary on 3 things: the Apostle's creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's prayer, each things we should no better.  I have no doubt that neither my children nor my wife know the Apostle's Creed, but I think it would be wise for us to learn it together. 

The Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Maker of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.

23 March 2012

Responding to the charge of indoctrination

Christians in general, and homeschooling parents in particular, are frequently charged with indoctrination.  I have been regularly taken back by the comments I read or words I hear from self-proclaimed "tolerant" individuals in society.  There seem to be twin presumptions, two sides of the same coin.  The first of these presumptions is that parents who choose to educate their children at home are engaging in a form of child abuse.  By swimming against the current of mainstream society, by electing not to educate their children in the public school system, homeschoolers are often confronted, directly or indirectly.  Those who would argue against the freedom to educate children at home often voice concerns that home educators are poorly prepared to train their children, are too politically conservative, and seek to shelter their children from the truth in the "real world". Furthermore, religious training is viewed as a particularly egregious form of indoctrination that homeschool parents practice. 

The other side of the coin is the presumption that government, media, and the public education system are immune from indoctrinating the students in their charge.  Public schools are presented as bastions of tolerance for any and all viewpoints.Yet, familiarity with public schools often reveals anything but tolerance.  In the state of Wisconsin last year, public school teachers made their values abundantly clear when they staged "sick outs" to march on the state capitol and protest Scott Walker's union policies.  During that time, some teachers also took their children outside to march in protest to Scott Walker.  This is but one example of many ways of indoctrinating children.  Other examples include the prohibition of teaching intelligent design next to evolution, of teaching abstinence next to to safe sex practices, or of forbidding children to pray, even silently.  Tom Gilson's recent article in the Washington Post highlights the subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, ways in which indoctrination occurs in school districts as well.  

Do homeschoolers "indoctrinate" their children?  Certainly, if indoctrination means that children are educated about a set of beliefs.  Doctrine is defined as, "A belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group" so indoctrination would involve education about that set of beliefs.  Homeschoolers also educate their children about a wide range of subjects--mathematics, English, history, music, and logic to name a few.  Homeschool parents typically take their role as educators very seriously. 

However, it is not only homeschoolers who influence their children's beliefs.  All parents, if they are doing their job well can and should influence their children's beliefs.  Most parents believe in teaching their children to know right from wrong. Most parents, whether directly or indirectly, shape what their children believe about themselves, others, and the world.  There is a word for parents who fail to shape their children's beliefs--neglectful.  Children who are left to their own devices, who grow up without any sort of parental influence or education, do not learn to function well in society. 

It is time that schools, and parents who send children to public schools, recognize that they are indoctrinating children as well.  How teachers present material and how they respond to student questions and behaviors reflects a system of belief.  At a more basic level, the philosophies of textbook authors come through as well in the words they write.  Education is not a morally neutral enterprise.  Even systems, such as the popular values clarification from the 1960s assumed a particular "doctrinal" perspective. 

Beyond teaching my children what I value, I also expect them to become critical thinkers.  I expect them to learn about and appreciate truth, beauty, justice, respect, and mercy.  I expect them to be able to analyze systems of thought, including their own, and be able to identify flaws in thinking.  I expect them to be humble and teachable, yet confident and wise.  I expect them to develop critical thinking skills so that they can learn to "spot the lie" as Os Guinness has suggested. Rather than restricting their learning, I hope to open their minds to a wider world than much public education allows. 

Finally, with regard to schools, I am thankful for teachers and public education.  I am grateful that I live in a country where public education is free and accessible for all children.  For parents who choose to send your children to public schools, make sure you are invested in your children's learning as well.  Talk about their schoolwork.  Ask questions.  For the educators (whether at home or in the schools), do not simply assert a point of view.  Ask questions.  Encourage questions as well.  Teach students to think critically.  Allow them to explore viewpoints that you may not hold. 

22 March 2012

Church shopping is weakening Christianity

Carl Trueman writes of the negative effect upon Christianity by the automobile, of all things. He draws this point out from a statement made in the National Review that church shopping is weakening Christianity.  I think he is certainly on to something.  Rather than living and serving in community together, when people are offended or facing church discipline, they can just drive on down the road to a church that suits their liking.  He writes, "And if they drive far enough, they always find such a place.  Trust me.  They always do.  There is always some place that either does not know them or simply does not care what they have done." Unfortunately, that does not seem to represent biblical Christianity.  I would commend the whole article to you. 

True Reason

Carson Weitnauer, writing at the Gospel Coalition, provides a review of True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.  He writes, "For the New Atheists, as for some of the old, ardent love for reason apparently motivates visceral disgust of religion. As Harris has said, "Religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction." Dawkins has even gone so far as to say that molesting children "may be less harmful in the long run" than giving children a religious education."

"Despite such attacks, as Christians we are delighted that those who consider themselves our opponents are such ardent appreciators of reason. After all, Jesus famously proclaimed that the most important commandment includes loving God "with all of your mind" (Mk. 12:30). So, ironically, we believe that atheists honor God unawares when they reason well. Because we desire to honor God, we want to demonstrate why Christianity provides the most reasonable framework for the existence and use of reason."

With such contributors as William Lane Craig, a man of such caliber that Richard Dawkins has continually refused to debate him, this is sure to be a worthwhile book.  

21 March 2012

How an affair begins

Rare is the person who sets out to have an affair.  Like the old story of a frog in boiling water, many people don't recognize they are in hot water until it is already boiling. 

Andree Seu, writing for World Magazine, writes:  "She went to a woman’s house to drop off a package as a favor to someone, but the woman was not home. The husband was, and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. My friend noticed the carpentry project the man was working on and commented on his artistry. She asked him a few questions about it, and it didn’t take much to encourage him to spill forth for an hour and a half about every aspect of the work. It was fun."

Read the rest here.  

20 March 2012

He's praying on the worst day of your life

Michael Kelley writes, "Peter suffered from the same delusion that plagues us all from time to time – that we are above it all. That we are above such an outright and blatant example of sin. That we are above succumbing. That our faith, and our will, is strong. But Jesus knows better.

"Peter was oblivious to the fact that he was embarking on what was to be no doubt one of the worst, if not the worst, day of his life. How many times in the years after would he look back on Jesus’ words and wonder how he could have been so arrogant? How many times would he replay the moment by the fire when all his will gave way underneath the weight of a little girl’s questioning? How many times would he remember the bitter tears he wept as Jesus was led away to His death in the shadow of His friend’s blatant denial?

"But how could he have known? In that moment, Peter felt strong. He felt confident. He was, in his own mind, invincible.

"But Jesus knew better. He still knows better." 

Read the whole thing here

13 March 2012

Sing like you mean it

Why do people, particularly men, walk out of the sanctuary when the music begins? Why do they sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs in a half-hearted way if they sing at all? Where is their passion for their Savior? 

I have been thinking about these questions lately and privately lamenting the disregard for corporate singing that I see among today's churchmen.  In our church, we open the service with a few songs.  People mingle in the lobby, visiting about the weeks events, or what they are doing that afternoon or something else, neglecting the opportunity to offer praise to God.  As the service draws to a close, we sing again.  Too often, people--particularly the men--head for the lobby again.  Sometimes to retrieve children, sometimes to relieve themselves. Yet few return to sing. 

I suspect part of the reason for this is a tendency to view church in an entertainment framework.  People see themselves coming to church to be entertained.  Their is a failure to see their active roles in corporate worship.  The music is not entertainment, nor a warm-up for the sermon.  It is an integral part of the church service.  It is worship offered to the "immortal, invisible, God only wise."  I would like to see our men lead in this regard--to see them sing boldly to the God whom they profess to love. 

There was an article posted at The Blazing Center today that was a balm for me.  The author, Keith McCracken, writes of his father's passion for singing hymns, loudly, in and out of the church.  He writes, "Though I hold many cherished memories of him, perhaps the most vivid was his excitement over singing certain hymns. By all accounts he possessed at best an 'average' voice when it comes to uniqueness and tonal quality. But he sang his favorites with a conviction that was beyond convincing and was by far one of the loudest and most joyful voices in a congregation of approximately 350. I remember looking up at him and 'checking him out' while he was singing… 'Is he for real?' I would wonder. When he would catch me looking at him he would simply 'lock-eyes' with me and sing all the louder while he broadened his grin to match proportion with his pleasure."  This had a lasting impact upon McCracken and I would commend the whole article to you. 

Dad's, don't minimize the impact you have upon your children's faith.  They need to see you loving God in many ways.  They need to see that Christ is of preeminent importance to you.  Set aside your embarrassment, your distraction, and "sing like you mean it."  

David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.--1 Chronicles 15:16

Discarded books

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I just do not want to finish reading a book I have started, yet I feel conflicted. The conflict for me is that once started, I think that I should finish.  I ask myself, what if the author still has something to say that I need to read? What if he is just slow in getting to his point. So often, I continue to slog through, hoping to find some nuggets of wisdom, hoping the book may be redeemed. Too often, the redemption never comes and I am left with feelings of dissatisfaction (with the book) and relief (that I am done).

Last night, I picked up John Piper's God is the Gospel again. I was on page 107. I have been trying to read this book for weeks. I have read some rave reviews.  Further, I love John Piper and consider him to be one of the most influential authors on my own thinking. I love the Gospel. I love Jonathan Edwards, who is a focal point of this book.  It seems like a no brainer and yet, I just cannot connect with the book. 

And so I put it back on the shelf, perhaps to pick it up again at a later time.  Perhaps not.

As I have reflected upon books, I have realized that I have several mental categories.

Hard books--There are some books that are enjoyable to read, yet are cognitively difficult to process.  They take mental work.  I would put Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in this grouping. I have been working on the Institutes for well over a year and I am about half way through. It is a book that requires a lot of brain power, not because Calvin is an obscure communicator, but because he is a deep thinker and his writing takes deep thinking.

Right book, wrong time--I have several books that I have started only to set them aside because I do not connect with them.  I may pick them up again at a later time and find that I devour them.  I suspect Piper's book mentioned above will fall into this camp.

Badly written books--There are some books that are poorly written.  The author may not communicate well or have a clear sense of direction.  Perhaps the author takes too long to get to her point. This limits the readability of a book.

Books with a bad message--I think of health and wealth writers.  They may communicate clearly, they may have a compelling message, but they may vary from theological uninformed to outright heresy.  It is not edifying to read books like this.

Good books--There are some books that are a joy to read, communicate clearly, and edify the reader. Books I would put in that category for me are Desiring God by John Piper, Luther's Commentary on Galatians, and Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson.  There are numerous others.

I am trying to grow in the practice of reading things that I actually enjoy and learn something from. I want to get to the point where I feel okay with setting a book aside for a time...or for good.  The book's feelings will not be hurt.  There are millions of books out there; find something you like and read it.

12 March 2012

Book review: Saving Leonardo

A few months ago, I started reading Nancy Pearcey's Saving Leonardo (2010), but for reasons unknown I stopped. I simply lost interest, which can happen with the best of books.  Sometimes, it is the right book at the wrong time. After submitting my application to the Centurions Program last week, I decided to give this book a try again and was much more easily captivated this time around. 

Nancy Pearcey is very clearly influenced by Francis Schaeffer, one of the greatest influences upon 20th century apologetics and evangelicalism. This book serves as an analysis of worldviews and how they have influenced the arts.  As I read the book, I was struck by the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, influences of worldviews upon the things we enjoy including music, literature, painting, and movies.

I was particularly interested to read about the Kantian influence on leading two lines of seeking truth--romanticism (the upper story) and the enlightenment (the lower story).  The chasm between these two has widened and continues to do so, such that the arts are no longer assumed to have any understanding or contribution to truth.

Pearcey does an admirable job of demonstrating that a commitment to either of these worldviews exclusively and calling Christians to understand how to engage culture by understanding worldviews. 4 stars.

A cure for the dying

Many years ago, I had lunch with Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist who went public with her own struggles with bipolar disorder in a book, An Unquiet Mind. Barry Cooper at the Gospel Coalition discusses her latest memoir, Nothing Was the Same about her husband's fight with, and eventual defeat, by cancer. Jamison and her husband, both unbelievers, had placed their hope in science. Even upon hearing the words of the hymn "Immortal, Invisible", her husband liked the tune, but the words failed to land upon him.  They failed to see the importance of Jesus even at this crucial time in their lives. 

Cooper then writes about a conversation with a hospital chaplain when his mother had cancer. He wrote, "In September 2001, my mother died of stomach cancer. The medical staff at the hospice were phenomenal: skilled, sensitive, and familiar with grief. The spiritual staff were less effective, however. I remember asking the chaplain how he shared the hope of the resurrection with dying people. I also remember the look of surprise on his face. 'Oh, that's the last thing I would do at that point,' he answered, oblivious to the irony. Under any other circumstances, I probably would have laughed."

There is but one cure for death...

08 March 2012

For all you moms who feel inadequate

Robert Jones wrote today about the feelings of guilt that moms often seem to feel. 

"The guilt you feel may be distorted guilt. We may wrongly place ourselves under a law we erect: 'Good mothers should do X, Y, or Z,' even though X, Y, or Z may go beyond what God’s Word  commands. I think of my friend—a good mom by any fair standard—who believed that all good moms should take their kids to the library three times a week. Sometimes those false standards come from outside of us—the ideals of your church or small group, your mother’s model, your mother-in-law’s advice, or the latest book or blog from your favorite Christian counselor." 

Read the whole thing here

07 March 2012

Book Review: Scripture as Communication

I am currently taking my third class through CCEF, Biblical Interpretation.  For this class, Jeannine Brown's Scripture as Communication (2007) was required reading. I must first confess that this was a difficult read for me.  I did learn a great deal about principles of hermeneutics of which I was largely unaware. For example, she discussed in great detail the importance of authorial intent, the response of the hearer, and so forth. I admit that I settled in a bit more when she started discussing language, genre, and so forth. This is a good book and the author asks good questions, but for most people who are interested in learning more about hermeneutics, there are some other more basic texts that would be appropriate. 3 stars

The pain of "selective reduction"

A couple of days ago, there was an article on American Thinker, written by an anonymous author, the husband of a woman who chose to selective abort two of her three babies. He had no choice in the matter. She told him she would abort them all or keep only one.

He writes,

"Before the procedure, my wife's eyes teared up; she asked the doctor over and over if they would feel pain, and was assured they would not.  I asked again if my wife was sure about this because once done, it could not be undone.  She said she was sure, but her tears and her looking away from the screen, deliberately, and her wanting me to not look either, told me the truth: she knew as well that this was wrong.  I wanted to insist that she look, but I think that her mind -- already fractured by the news of triplets -- would have snapped permanently had she seen the images onscreen.  And to save the one, and for the sake of the one we already had, I needed my wife sane.

"My wife didn't look, but I had to.  I had to know what would happen to my children.  I had to know how they would die.

"Each retreated, pushing away, as the needle entered the amniotic sac.  They did not inject into the placenta, but directly into each child's torso.  Each one crumpled as the needle pierced the body.  I saw the heart stop in the first, and mine almost did, too.  The other's heart fought, but ten minutes later they looked again, and it too had ceased.

"The doctors had the gall to call the potassium chloride, the chemical that stopped children's hearts, "medicine."  I wanted to ask what they were trying cure -- life?  But bitter words would not undo what had happened.  I swallowed anything I might have said."

Please take time to read the whole thing here

Who told you that you were naked?

I enjoy Jon Acuff's Stuff Christians Like, but I particularly like serious Wednesdays. Today, he discusses  Genesis 3:11, where God is speaking with Adam and Eve, asking the question "who told you that you were naked?" 

He writes,

To me, this is one of the saddest and most profoundly beautiful verses in the entire Bible. Adam and Eve have fallen. The apple is a core. The snake has spoken. The dream appears crushed. As they hide from God under clothes they’ve hastily sewn together, He appears and asks them a simple question:

“Who told you that you were naked?”

There is hurt in God’s voice as He asks this question, but there is also a deep sadness, the sense of a father holding a daughter that has for the first time ever, wrapped herself in shame.

Who told you that you were not enough?
Who told you that I didn’t love you?
Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?
Who told you that you were ugly?
Who told you that your dream was foolish?
Who told you that you would never have a child?
Who told you that you would never be a father?
Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?
Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?
Who told you that you’ll never know love again?
Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?

I don’t know when you discovered shame. I don’t know when you discovered that there were people who might think you are silly or dumb or not a good writer or a husband or a friend. I don’t know what lies you’ve been told by other people or maybe even by yourself.

But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the question, “Who told you that you were naked?”

And He’s still asking us that question because we are not.
In Christ, we are not worthless.
In Christ, we are not hopeless.
In Christ, we are not dumb or ugly or forgotten.
In Christ, we are not naked.

Isaiah 61:10 says:
“For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”
The world may try to tell you a thousand different things today. You might close this post and hear a million declarations of who you are or who you’ll always be, but know this:

As unbelievable as it sounds, and as much as I never expected to type this sentence on this blog:

You are not naked.

06 March 2012

Book review: For Calvinism

About a week ago, I posted a review of Against Calvinism, which is a part of a two book set. I have now finished the second book, For Calvinism (2011) by Michael Horton.  Before I proceed, I should confess a few biases. First, as I have studied, the Calvinistic understanding of God's sovereignty in salvation makes more sense to me than the Arminian position defended by Roger Olson in Against Calvinism.  Second, Michael Horton is one of my favorite authors and speakers.  Certainly, these things affect my perspective on these books. 

So, having stated that, from what I could see, Horton seems to depend upon scripture to a greater degree than Olson did to establish his arguments for Calvinism.  While Olson found Calvinism logically inconceivable and morally reprehensible, Horton tries to describe what Scripture says.  I find this to be true of most Calvinists (e.g., John Piper, Charles Spurgeon)--they try to account for all of Scripture.  Further, although Olson dealt almost exclusively with TULIP (a term Horton doesn't care for), Horton moves beyond to consider more broadly Reformed beliefs and doctrine.  As a general defense of TULIP, I prefer Sproul's Chosen by God, yet this is a fine volume in that regard as well. 

A drawback of the book, and of reformed theology in general, seems to be an overreliance upon the creeds and confessions. Although I generally agree with early creeds and much of reformed confessions (Heidelberg, Westminster), they are not to be the grounding for our belief.  God's word is. 

On the whole, I would commend these two volumes.  Although I still think Calvinism is the best explanation for all of Scripture, Olson argues his point well.  Horton, as always, is a humble, wise, and articulate defender of confessional Calvinism.  4 stars. 

Dealing with sexual sin

Desiring God features an article by Harry Schaumberg about Sexual sin in the ministry.  He writes,

"Several years ago a seminary professor told me: 'We no longer ask our entering students if they struggling with pornography, we assume every student is struggling. The question we ask: ‘How serious is the struggle?’”"

Sexual sin is a huge issue in the church as it is throughout the world at large. Schaumberg points to many of the issues at hand.

I was particularly struck by this passage, "When one is held in the grip of sexual sin, there is no hope of self-reform or self-efforts, for those living according to the “passions of their flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind” (Ephesians 2:3). To put it bluntly, those living in habitual sexual sin are “dead in their trespasses and sin” (verse 1). Dead, in a loss of spiritual life. Dead to finding satisfaction with God. Dead to living for his purpose. Holiness is dead. Wisdom is dead. Purity is dead. Love is dead. Like David, the sexual sinner has sinned “against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13), and in so doing has “utterly scorned the Lord” (verse 14). The horrible fact is they are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3)."

I would strongly recommend this article, particularly to the men.  And then find someone to whom you can be accountable. 

05 March 2012

Sharpen your swords

Jeremy Walker at Reformation 21 writes of the difficulty of hiding God's word in our heart in our modern age. 

He writes, "You have one primary offensive weapon with which to do battle against sin: 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God' (Eph 6.17). Can you afford to have that potent blade wrapped up in the electronic cobwebs of some computer programme when you need it for the fight? Do you not know from bitter experience that you do not have time to draw the sword from the depths of your electronic device when Satan comes roaring in against you? You need it sitting in your hand, you need it stored up in your heart ready for immediate deployment when the enemy comes upon you unawares. To use a more modern metaphor, you cannot afford to wander this battlefield with all your ammunition stored at the bottom of your backpack; you need your weapon locked and loaded at all times.

I would commend the whole thing to you here.  

04 March 2012

What, you don't agree with me?

Michael Patton writes a good, humble essay on disagreement between believers. He points to what we commonly want to assume is the reason for disagreement and it typically falls on our assumptions about deficiencies in the other person of a sort (e.g., lack of wisdom). However, he also points to other, very real possibilities.  For example, they may be right and I may be wrong. 

Read the whole thing here

02 March 2012

NO condemnation

However deep and wide you think the freedom offered to sinners in the gospel is–it’s more, not less. This is how Tullian Tchvidjian begins today's essay. The whole thing is worth the read. 

Are there benefits to ebooks?

I have come down on the paper side of the e-book/traditional book debate, though I read in both formats.  Zach Nielsen has linked to an article from Eric McKiddie about some benefits of e-books that is worth reading through. 

Number 2 is a definite benefit as far as I am concerned.  The Evernote connection. It’s easy to import your Kindle highlights into Evernote, making them easily and speedily searchable. This is a huge time saver when it comes to sermon prep. Michael Hyatt shows you how.

Read the rest here.