30 April 2012

Poetry duel: Muslim vs Christian

Thabiti Anyabwile, a former Muslim and now Christian shared these two poems. The first is of of a Muslim man criticizing Christianity in favor of Islam. The second, which was later released, is a strong defense of biblical Christianity against that poem, but importantly, demonstrates the flaws in the Muslim's own poem.  Interesting viewpoints here.



Introducing: Sewing Grace

My oldest daughter Grace has a heart for Haiti.  We took her with us when we went in February and I think she was more at home than Heather and I were. Were it not for her parents insisting otherwise, I am quite certain she would have happily stayed at the orphanage while we went to the hotel. 

She recently came up with an idea to combine her love for sewing with her love for Haiti.  She started a website, Sewing Grace, where she is featuring her products. Her intention, as it currently stands, is to make skirts, and eventually some other things. Specifically, when someone orders a skirt from her, she will also make a skirt for a girl in Haiti. 

Give her website a look. We are still working out some of the details, but she is very excited and I am very proud of her. 

29 April 2012

Mutual Protection

Here is a link to a sermon I presented at Cedarcreek Church on the theme of Mutual Protection on April 29. 

28 April 2012

Stop capitulating on science

Christians must stop capitulating to the idea that Christianity is only about faith/values. Christianity is about faith and values, but it is not only about faith and values. Christianity is also grounded in reason and truth--it presents a full-orbed, robust worldview. 

In a similar vein, most modern science is also involved in the pursuit of truth, yet it requires faith--faith in philosophical naturalism. As atheist Michael Ruse has said, "I must admit in this one complaint that the biblical literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today."

Unfortunately, philosophical materialists have continually worked to recast religion as subjective feeling, but evolution as objective truth.  Most materialists would flatly reject the idea that they hold religious beliefs. 

Historian Jacques Barzun wrote, the so-called warfare between science and religion should really be seen as the warfare between two philosophies and perhaps two faiths."

Perhaps the question we all should be asking is which worldview system--which religion as it were--best accounts for all of life. 

26 April 2012

Being a normal Christian

Stephen Altrogge posted a timely essay on being a normal Christian. 

He writes, "There are a lot of blog posts and tweets and status updates that remind me of all that I should be doing. I need to more missional, more missions minded, more focused on the Holy Spirit, more authentic with my neighbors, more committed to the cause of adoption, more careful with my eating habits, and more  committed to ending sex trafficking in America.

"And don’t get me wrong, each of these things is truly biblical. It’s right and good to reach out to the community and to adopt children and to reach the unreached people groups and to fight against horrific things like sex trafficking. But I can’t do all these things at one time with equal intensity and fervor. I’m a pretty limited guy. I’m married and I have three little girls who want to play with dollies and puzzles. I have a yard that needs mowing and a grandpa that needs visiting and people in my church who I need to pray for. I battle physical anxiety from time to time, which puts real physical limitations on what I can do. Most of the time I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.

"So I think I might just be a normal Christian from now on."  

Read the rest here.  

25 April 2012

apologetics resurces for kids

This morning, on Facebook, I wrote "If all we give them is a 'heart' religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive, but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a 'brain' religion--training in worldview and apologetics--to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home."--Nancy Pearcy.

Ratio Christi has put together a list of apologetics resources for kids at various stages of development that you can find here

God is a creative artist

Jon Acuff writes beautifully this morning about God's love of beauty.

“The world didn’t have to be beautiful.”

Have you ever thought about that?

Jellyfish didn’t need to look like canopied dreams, flying underwater with a grace that shames ballet dancers.

Sunsets didn’t have to look like paint sets exploded against the wall, slowly falling down the horizon.

The tide on this planet didn’t need to dance with the pull of a glowing sphere thousands of miles away.

God didn’t have to make the world beautiful.

Read the whole thing here.  

Does the Kindle Kiss Poorly?

I read this article by Aimee Byrd, "Why the Kindle is a Really Bad Kisser" this morning and I laughed out loud at several points. This is a humorous essay, in part because she is quite right about most of her Kindle experience.

She starts out, "Kindle and I had our first date this morning. What a letdown! It was the kind of date where you feel compelled to kiss and tell.

"First of all, I love real books, so I knew that Kindle was going to be inferior. I knew I would miss holding my book with a cradled bend in its pages, perfectly spooned in my hands. I knew it would be difficult to give up paper, with its glorious smells and textures. I knew that Kindle would be lacking in intimacy. But I was willing to temporarily sacrifice all that I knew for $4.99."

Read the rest here.  

24 April 2012

Book Review: Evangellyfish

Evangellyfish (2012) is a satirical novel by pastor, speaker, and author Douglas Wilson. I have long been a fan of Wilson's ability to communicate effectively. He uses words like a scalpel rather than a broadsword, yet he is not shy about his opinions. I haven't read Carl Hiaasen, but if I did, I imagine this is what his books would be like.

I first encountered Wilson in the documentary Collision where he engaged in a series of debates with well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens. They were both exemplary wordsmiths, so it was a joy to watch. But I digress.

Evangellyfish presents the story of a pastor of a mega-church, Chad Lester, who is caught in the middle of a scandal of mega-proportions. There is a certain irony that even though he is happily involved in a number of sinful behaviors, he is being accused of a sin he perceives to be much more egregious. He wonders how he could ever be accused of that sin because he would never do that.  The book then follows the unfolding of this scandal, the responses of church leadership, and the reaction by the leader of a Reformed Baptist congregation, John Mitchell. 

Along the way, Wilson appears to call many of us to task. He challenges many of the prevailing notions in evangelicalism such as the lack of pursuit of holiness, our reliance upon Oprah-esque psychobabble, and the lack of biblical grounding in too many churches. 

The book is funny, satrical, and convicting.  If you are looking for a fun read, you may enjoy this novel. 

23 April 2012

Koukl on Colson

Greg Koukl is one of the people I consider most influential to my own thinking. I have learned a lot from his materials.  Today, he shared his thoughts about Chuck Colson.  He wrote,

On Saturday while at a conference in Seattle, I was waiting to do my next presentation when I received a text message from Melinda.  It simply said, “Chuck Colson is in Heaven.”

After a few moments of deep, very mixed emotions of sadness and happiness, the first phrase that came to my mind was, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I texted that single line back.

Though I knew Chuck—we had worked together a number of times—we were really more colleagues on a first-name basis than friends.  Even so, it was hard to be around him at all and not be influenced by him.
I first met Chuck in the early 90s when I was interviewed in D.C. as a potential writer for Breakpoint.  I didn’t get the job, but I did have a brief audience with Chuck.  Though he was entirely gracious and cordial, I was a bit tongue-tied, being in the presence of genuine greatness.  And Chuck Colson was a great man, in all the important ways.

We had both become Christians the same year (1973), and when Born Again eventually came out I devoured it.  It was a vivid testimony of the power of God to take a powerful and prideful man and transform him into a powerful and humble servant.

Around ten years ago I heard Chuck reflect that his years were numbered, so he resolved to redouble his efforts, dedicating his remaining time to do anything and everything he could to build the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t want to waste a moment or squander an opportunity.  He wanted to leave a legacy, not for his sake, but for Christ’s sake.

When Chuck fell critically ill, someone on our staff wondered who would replace him.  I simply said, “No one.”  I didn’t mean Chuck Colson was indispensable.  Nobody in the Kingdom of God plays such a role.  I simply meant he was utterly distinctive, making a singular contribution at a defining moment in history.
Chuck Colson was a man I looked up to.  He was someone I learned from, not only from his books, but even more from the example of a life well-lived, a man laboring faithfully for Christ.  I was instructed by his stature as a Christian statesman, and by his tireless, humble, service for the cause of Christ.

Chuck Colson didn’t just run the race well.  He finished the race.  May we each, by God’s grace, do as well as he, and hear—as he did—when we cross the line: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

What happened to critical thinking in science?

Marvin Olasky, writing at World Magazine, discusses the recent controversies in Tennessee over evolution.  He writes, "The sky is falling! Many interest groups and journalists raced to tell that to the public when a modest but important bill became law in Tennessee early in April. The law instructs teachers and administrators to 'create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.'

"What's not to like? The law, similar to one in Louisiana, also protects teachers who help students (I'm quoting from the official legislative summary) 'understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught. ...' Oh, here's the problem: Evolution is one of the theories that can now be analyzed and critiqued."

I have been saying for years that children are not taught to think critically.  Logic is sorely missing from education. They learn facts, trivia if you will, to then regurgitate on examinations. Even most doctor of philosophy (i.e., PhD.) have no training in philosophy or logic.  This is law proposes that children should "develop critical thinking skills." I agree with Olasky, what's not to like.  Perhaps more to the point, what are organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science afraid of? That it will be discovered that the emperor is wearing no clothes? 

Read the rest here.

21 April 2012

Thank you Chuck

I am too young to remember Watergate. As a result of his involvement, however, Chuck Colson went to prison and in prison, he became a Christian.  Since then, he has developed a 35 year legacy of ministering to prisoners, reforming prisons, challenging corruption, and above all, pointing people to his Savior.  I did have the pleasure to hear him speak live one time and the effect of that short talk on me was profound. He was talking about the importance of Christian worldview and mentioned the Centurions Program he started. By coincidence, I have applied for admission to next year's class.  I also read a few of his books.  I could not put down his book called The Faith

He died today. He will be missed by those of us left behind, but he is now face to face with his savior.  If you are interested in reading further:

Remembering Chuck Colson

Tom Gilson's thoughts at The Gospel Coalition

Chuck Colson Taught Trevin Wax how to think

Ed Stetzer's thoughts

Christianity Today

He was, according to biographer Jonathan Aitken, he was America's best known evanglical after Billy Graham.

20 April 2012

The similarities of Islam and Mormonism

In a short article about the recent hiring of a Muslim president at BYU-Hawaii, Gene Veith writes, "Both Mormonism and Islam reportedly had their origins in a prophet receiving a supernatural book from an angel.  Both involve elaborate systems of laws, including dietary rules and regulation of virtually every facet of life.  Both have practiced or currently practice polygamy.  Both promise an afterlife that includes sex and sensual pleasure.  Both recognize Jesus but consider Him as being less than true God.  Both reject the Trinity.  Both believe in salvation by works-righteousness."

Read the whole thing here.  

19 April 2012

Book Review: If God, Why Evil?

If God, Why Evil? (2011) is a short treatise on evil by Norman Geisler, one of the leading apologetics authors active today.  Geisler has a way of writing in a straightforward way.  He omits the fluff.  He states the problem and he answers it. 

In the introduction to the book, Geisler suggests that one of the most frequent challenges offered to Christians deals with the question of "if there is a God, why is their evil?" In this book, Geisler attempts to address this problem clearly, concisely, comprehensively, correctly, and in a comforting way (p. 10).  He accomplishes this by addressing several common questions in simple terms, which he then restates in the form of syllogisms.  Then he answers the syllogisms. 

For example, in chapter 5 on "the purpose of evil", he states the problem as: "there seems to be no apparent purpose to some evil." The syllogism is then stated:

1) An all-good God must have a good purpose for everything
2) But there is no good purpose for some suffering
3) Hence there cannot be an all-good God.

In other words: if A, then B. A, therefore B.

He challenges the second premise of this syllogism by stating the following "it should not be expected that we know the purpose for everything" (Deuteronomy 29:29) and "an infinitely good Mind knows a good purpose for everything." There are things that seem, for a time, to be purposeless, yet in the longer term, their purposes become apparent.

The book is indeed short and concise and, in that regard, is much different than Randy Alcorn's encyclopedic treatment of the same issue in If God is Good.  It utilizes philosophical propositions, but is not a difficult read.  It is certainly worth spending an afternoon or two interacting with this book. 

Ahh..."progressive" Sweden

Lydia McGrew writes a short piece about Sweden's progressive childcare.  Apparently, there is an expectation that children will be in childcare at age one--daycare is their "right". 

Read the whole thing here

18 April 2012

Dating my daughters

Grace is 12. Yoldine is 7. Tessa is 3.  Eventually, boys will come courting. They will need to know these words from Jared Wilson if they are to have *any* hope at all. I appreciated his tongue in cheek look at our daughters (and by extension, sons) dating, yet there is a grain of truth in many of these.

1. You must love Jesus. I don't care if you're a "good Christian boy." I was one of those too. So I know the tricks. I'm going to ask you specific, heart-testing questions about your spiritual affections, your daily devotional life, your idols, your disciplines, and the like. I'll cut you a little bit of slack because you're young and hormonal and your pre-frontal lobe isn't fully developed yet, but I'll be watching you like a hawk. I know you. I was you. You will think you can fool me, and you likely have fooled many other dads who didn't pay much attention to their daughters' suitors, but I will be on you like Bourne on that guy whose neck he broke. Which guy was that? Every guy. So love Jesus more than my daughter or go home.
2. You will install X3Watch or Covenant Eyes on your computer and mobile devices and have your regular reports sent to me.
3. I will talk to your dad and tell him I will hold him responsible if you don't treat my daughter like a lady. If he thinks I'm a crazy person, you fail the test and won't get to date her. If he understands what I'm saying, that bodes well for you.
4. You will pay for everything. Oh, sure, every now and then my daughter can buy you a Coke or something and a gift on your birthday and at Christmas. But you pay for meals, movies, outings, whatever else. Don't have a job? I'm sorry, why I am talking to you again?
 5. You will accept my Facebook friend request.
 6. If it looks like you need a belt to hold your pants up, I will assume you don't have a job. See #4.
 7. Young people dating are putting their best face forward, so if you appear impatient, ill-tempered, or ill-mannered, I know you will gradually become more so over time. I will have no jerks dating my daughters.
8. If I am not your pastor, I will talk to the man who is. If your pastor is a woman, why I am talking to you, again?
9. You don't love my daughter. You have no idea what love is. You like her and you might love her someday. That's an okay start with me, so put the seatbelt on the mushy gushy stuff. Don't profess your undying love, quote stupid love song lyrics to her, tell her you'd die for her, or feed her any other boneheaded lines that are way out of your depth as a horny little idiot. A lady's heart is a fragile thing. If you play with hers, I will show you yours.
10. If you ever find yourself alone with my daughter, don't panic. Just correct the situation immediately. If I ever catch you trying to get alone with my daughter, that would be the time to panic.
11. It may sound like I'm joking in threatening you harm, and while I might not physically hurt you if you offend my daughter or violate her honor, when I am addressing the issue with you, you will not be laughing.
12. You may think all this sounds very legalistic. That's fine. You can be one of the many antinomians not dating my daughter.

17 April 2012

Politics and scripture twisting

"Raise your hand if you’re offended by politicians and church leaders using the Bible like a wax nose."  So begins Mike Horton's latest essay on the misuse of holy Scripture for political gain.  I was struck by this recently as I listened to President Obama talk at the presidential prayer breakfast--a tendency to twist scripture. 

To be clear, people of all political persuasions do this and it is unfortunate. Here are some of Horton's thoughts:

[Regarding the Rich Young Ruler]--"The tragic fact of this story is that those who invoke it against Republicans miss the point as badly as the rich young ruler. In fact, we show ourselves to be uncomfortably like the rich young ruler when we deflect the point to others—The Rich—and imagine that Jesus is suggesting that the Roman government should redistribute their income. The truth is, we are the rich young ruler and if we’re looking for “the one thing” we supposedly haven’t done to possess one more possession (eternal life), the command is for us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. Have the invokers of this story done that? If they haven’t, then they don’t have a right to use the story against the “bad guys."

[On socialism versus small government]--"It’s not just that Bible doesn’t give us enough data on small government versus socialism; it’s not written to a society that would have known what these economic arrangements were in the first place. It’s completely anachronistic to expect the Bible to address economic systems that would evolve through centuries of Western history."

Read the whole thing here.  

Others Thoughts on Blue Like Jazz

The movie adaptation of Donald Miller's very popular Blue Like Jazz just came out last week.  I know of several people who have read this book and been enamored.  From what I heard, though, there were many points of deviation from orthodox (read "biblical") Christianity. Eleanor Barkhorn's review at The Atlantic suggests that the movie version may be an even further deviation.  She writes, "Unfortunately, in its attempt to be a more honest voice of evangelical Christianity, Blue Like Jazz the movie ends up saying barely anything at all. It tries to navigate a middle course between mainstream Hollywood and mainstream evangelical movie-making, and in the process loses everyone. The film doesn't show skeptics anything distinctive about Christianity. And it tells believers not to share what they know, but instead to apologize for it."  If true, this widely misses the mark of Christian belief.  

I came across an interesting review of the book this morning written by Mark Coppenger, if you are interested in some of the difficulties he identified in the book. 

16 April 2012

Book Review: Rid of My Disgrace

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have written a compassionate, helpful treatment of sexual abuse in Rid of My Disgrace (2011).  In the opening chapters, they address the realities of sexual abuse, demonstrating that it is unfortunately commonplace.  Because victims often do not speak of it, we may wonder at how common it actually is. The statistics they cite suggest that it occurs as often as 1:6 for men and 1:4 for women during a lifetime.  I don't want to think of sexual assault occurring with that frequency. 

As they move into the middle of the book, they intersperse autobiographical accounts of abuse with descriptions of emotions like guilt, shame, and anger.  This choice to include the victim perspective moves the book beyond a sterile academic treatment of a very difficult subject. 

In the final part of the book, they provide a rich understanding of Christ's atonement, grounded first in the Old Testament sacrificial system and eventually finding its completion in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ.  I would personally have liked this section to be more fully integrated with the sections that came before because it seemed a bit disjointed. 

On the whole, if you have been abused, or if you work with those who may have been abused, I would certainly recommend this book.  The Holcomb's have provided a useful resource for a very difficult issue. 

Doubting Dawkins

I came across a new website, doubtingdawkins.com.  I do hope some people who have been taken in by Richard Dawkins will interact with the material at this site.

15 April 2012

Whiter Than Snow

One of my favorite writers/speakers talking about my favorite Psalm.


Paul Tripp - Whiter Than Snow from Crossway on Vimeo.

Risking our kids by failing to train them

Training in worldview, logic, and apologetics is sadly lacking from most Christian education in the church and the home. I know of very few young people, much less adults, who have invested themselves in knowing how to make a sound defense of the faith.  Christians have no need to bury their head in the sand on issues of life and culture, but too often we do because we don't know how strong our arguments really are.  The truth is on our side.  I found this quote by William Lane Craig to hit home, particularly the couple of sentences I highlighted.  
"Other students I met with at Princeton were enrolled in a class taught by the New Testament critic Elaine Pagels which they nicknamed the “Faithbusters Class” because of its destructive effect on the faith of many Christian students. They had no way of knowing how far out of mainstream scholarship Prof. Pagels’ views on the Gnostic gospels are. It was a privilege to share with them grounds for the credibility of the New Testament witness to Jesus.
"Their experience is not unusual. In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children simply Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.
"Unfortunately, our churches have also largely dropped the ball in this area. It’s insufficient for youth groups and Sunday school classes to focus on entertainment and simpering devotional thoughts. We’ve got to train our kids for war. We dare not send them out to public high school and university armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. The time for playing games is past." William Lane Craig


14 April 2012

Free course on the constitution

I came across this link to a free course on the US constitution, if you are interested.  Click here.


Homeschooling--a road less traveled

Christianity Today features an article by Helen Lee on why their family has benefited from educating their children at home.  She provides a thoughtful, heartfelt defense of home-schooling.  She wrote, "But the most surprising result of all? By breaking away from the public-school system that we had originally been so intent on entering, we no longer follow a defined success narrative that guides the paths of so many families around us. Ultimately, I think this was what God wanted to show me by encouraging this change in our family. I no longer see "success" only resulting from following the typical life story that my generation and I were encouraged to follow: go to a good school, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, then get married and have kids and repeat the cycle all over again."

Read the whole thing here.  

13 April 2012

Book Review: Thinking Christianly

Think Christianly (2011) by Jonathan Morrow is a mystery book for me.  This week, I received a package from Zondervan containing this book.  I am not sure if I signed up for a contest or if it was a gift.  In any case, I am deeply grateful. 

Once I discovered the contents of the package, I opened the book to the first few pages and was quickly drawn in. Morrow invites his readers to examine the culture we live in, their own worldviews, and to then step out and engage culture.  He deftly engages stories he has encountered in the media--stories many of us are familiar with--and examines them from a Christian perspective. 

Although he addresses numerous contemporary issues such as abortion, movies, evolution, and environmentalism, ultimately what his book does is equip Christians to "think Christianly" about all of these issues.  It is clear that his role is not to provide simple, thoughtless responses to these issues, but rather to help believers to go deeper by loving God and people with their heart and mind. 

I could go on gushing about this book for pages, but I will simply leave it at this--I wish I had written this book.  Morrow has hit upon many of the issues I hold dear and presented them in a winsome, attractive way.  Specifically, he teaches his readers how to develop and understand their worldview, use loving apologetics, and engage the culture at large. 

Go out and buy this book. 

10 April 2012

Boundaries for Youth Workers

I am not a youth worker.  I have never experienced inappropriate boundaries with any of my youth workers from my past.  So why am I posting this?  I don't know.  I guess I think it is important and that folks involved in youth work might benefit from the insights presented by Walt Mueller. 

Here are the bullets from his article:
  • Don't do youth work unless you are accountable to others.
  • Avoid any inappropriate contact with kids.
  • Develop clear parameters for communicating with kids.
  • If you find yourself crossing a line, run screaming to your accountability partners.
  • Learn to say "no".
I would strongly commend the whole article.  

Those dogmatic relativists

Doug Wilson writes about the importance of having faith in our message, particularly in a society so steeped in relativism.  He writes,

A relativistic age is sure of nothing, except for a dogged commitment to the necessity of that relativism. When they tell us that they “just don’t know,” and they use the word “ennui” a lot, this is an invitation for us to declare to them what we in fact do know. We ought to take it that way, in the same way the Apostle Paul took the inscription to “the unknown god”: Well, if they admit they don’t know, then maybe I should tell them.

 They don’t want it to work this way because our relativistic age has its hidden dogmatisms. They claim to not know, but they are also quite assured that you don’t know either, and that nobody can know. There may or may not be a God, and we can’t know anything about him. But we do know this—if he exists, he is incapable of revealing himself. But how do they know this? They have just said, “We can know nothing of God, and here, let me tell you something about him.”


For them, the most important claim they are making is that you don’t know. They want you to put your belief away. This trick is what the effective apologist and evangelist will insist on rejecting, but not by descending into a foolish quarrel (“Do too!”), but rather by truly and actively believing the grace of God in his heart, in his prayers, and in the presence of God.

Read the rest here.  

09 April 2012

DeYoung on racism

Kevin DeYoung offers some helpful thoughts about racism.  I am not sure he gets it entirely right.  I don't think any of us do.  But he is approaching it from a position of humility and seeking to understand, and that is a good thing.  I did like his concluding paragraph:

"In conclusion, let me suggest two simple things white Christians can do that would be huge steps in the right direction toward racial harmony. One, we can understand that we don’t understand what it is like to be black and then try our best to see what we don’t understand. Let’s admit we are clueless about a lot of stuff. Two, we could chillax on the racial front and just be normal friends with the minorities we know. Talk about stuff you like. Talk about your kids. Talk about the Bible. Talk about the gospel. Of course, be open to talking about the sticky racial issues, even though you might be uncomfortable or might see new sins. But don’t make friends with blacks so you can say 'my black friend says' or because you want to know 'how black people think' or because you are passionate about social justice. Just make friends because you are friendly. Don’t go looking for a social laboratory. Go out and meet someone you don’t know. Take it easy, be yourself, and see what happens."

Read the whole thing here:
On Race and Love and Trying to Understand

07 April 2012

Saturday--The In Between Day

Last year, at the annual meeting for the American Academy of Christian Counselors, John Ortberg shared a message about the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.  I would commend the whole thing to you, but I want to point out a few tidbits. 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This isn't Sunday. This isn't Friday. This is Saturday. The day after this but the day before that. The day
after a prayer gets prayed but before it gets answered. The day after a soul gets crushed way down but
before it gets at all lifted up. It's this kind of strange day, this Saturday. It's the in-between day. Not
Friday. Not Sunday. In between despair and joy. In between utter confusion and blinding clarity. In
between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light. In between hate and love. In between
death and life. It's the in-between day.

It's kind of odd because so much is happening on Sunday. So much is happening on Friday. Nothing
happens on Saturday. At the heart of the Jesus story, at the heart of human history are these three days:
Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The first day and the third day are so packed with action, event, emotion,
drama, detail, we could literally talk for a year and not scratch the surface. Some of the brightest people in
the history of world devote their lives to those two days. They are literally the two most studied, written
about days in human history.

Then there's Saturday. Even in the Bible (outside this one little detail about guards being posted to watch
the tomb), we're told nothing about anything happening on Saturday. On Good Friday our sins get paid
for. On Easter Sunday our hope is brought to life. Saturday is the day with no name, the day when nothing
happened.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Saturday is the day your dream died. You wake up and you're still alive. You have to go on, but you don't
know how. Worse, you don't know why. It brings up this odd question, this strange story: Why is there a
Saturday? Why is there a Saturday? It doesn't further the storyline. If Jesus is going to be crucified then
resurrected, why not get on with it? Just die on the cross then boom, resurrection. Why is it just those two
events but over three days? There is a reason. There is a reason for Saturday.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There is this structure according to the Scriptures. This is how life goes, these stories. It's a three-day
story. On the first day there is trouble, and on the third day there is deliverance. On the third day there is
good news. On the second day, there is what? Nothing. Trouble. Deliverance will come on the third day,
but it comes from God. God is the One who brings it. We can't make it happen. We can't force it. It's this
odd second day of trouble.

Now here's the problem with third-day stories. In a third-day story, you don't know it's a third-day story
until what day? Until it's the third day. When it's Friday, even when it's Saturday, as long as you know…
deliverance is never going to come. It may be a one-day story trouble, and that trouble may last the rest of
your life. It may just go on and on. The trouble with a third-day story is you don't know it's a third-day
story when you're in the middle of it. That is the bad thing about Saturday.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Despair or denial, or there is this third option: You can wait. That's a killer, isn't it? Wait on the Lord. Not
just wait around. On the Lord. Now this has nothing to do with passivity. It means whatever I do while it's
Saturday, I do with Him. I learn to work with Him even when He feels far away. I rest with Him. I try to
learn from Him. I ask questions of Him. I complain to Him. If I cannot connect with Him in any other
way, I complain to Him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So whatever your pain, whatever your rejection, whatever dream has died, whatever longing has not been
fulfilled, whatever your failure, whatever your regret, whatever your shame, whatever your
disappointment, it is not the end. It's only Saturday and deliverance is coming. So don't you give up. Don't
you despair. Don't you waver. Don't give in. Don't quit. Don't tank. Whatever you do, don't miss next
week because next week [Sunday] is the climax of the whole deal. You hold on to Jesus.

I would commend the whole thing to you.  Spend the 20 minutes and read the whole thing here.

Here is a link to the video, if you would prefer.  

05 April 2012

You can see a spider better on a white shirt

Ken Balding gives interesting insight into Romans 7 shared with him by JI Packer.

Here is my story.  J. I. Packer was lecturing for three days at the college where I was an undergraduate studying theology and biblical languages.  When it was announced that students could sign up for personal meetings with Dr. Packer, I think I was the only student in the college who signed up.  When I sat down with this distinguished British theologian, he asked, “How can I help you, young man?”

I blurted out:  “Romans 7!  I don’t understand Romans 7!  What’s going on in that passage?”

Packer then gently helped me uncover my own presuppositions about the passage and then offered to me a key insight that has helped me to this day.  I offer this insight to you in turn since I believe that this resolves the most important reason people reject the autobiographical reading of Romans 7.  How can the regenerate Paul—man of God that he is, and author of Romans 6 and 8—be experiencing such a struggle with sin as we see in Romans 7?

Packer gently leaned over the table, looked me in the eye, and said, “Young man, Paul wasn’t struggling with sin because he was such a sinner.  Paul was struggling because he was such a saint.  Sin makes you numb.  People who sin over and over again become desensitized to sin.  The reason Paul’s “struggle” was so intense was not because he was caught in a web of sin, or because he thought of himself as hopelessly doomed to giving into the temptations that he faced.  Rather, it was because Paul lived a life so sensitive to the Holy Spirit and passionate about the glory of God that he intensely felt his sins whenever he became aware that he had committed a sin (since he was not, of course, sinlessly perfect).”[2]

In other words, you can see a black spider crawling up your shirt a lot better if you are wearing a white shirt than if you are wearing a black shirt.  (Pause and think about that one for a moment if you didn’t get it right away.)

I want you to notice two things.  First, what was going on at that college that only one student took advantage of a personal meeting with JI Packer?!?  Second, we struggle with sin not because we are sinners, but because we are being changed by the Holy Spirit.  

Read it all here

01 April 2012

The women of Maison

Angie, the missionary at Maison where our children live, shares this story today about some of the women she has the joy of serving with.  She writes,

"Yesterday at 4 am on their way to work, Madame Gaston and her friend, Murielle, were getting on a tap tap in a faraway place on the other side of Port au Prince to come to work at Maison.  Madame Gaston saw three young boys, filthy, smelly, and thin, on the side of the road and asked them what they were doing.  They had been asleep somewhere on the street and a man had woken them up and said to move on.  She said she could hardly handle the smell coming from the boys, yet she continued to talk with them.  They slowly began to tell their story, eager to share with this stranger who seemed to care.  Madame Gaston knew of the boys' house near Maison, and decided to try to get them in there.  A man, a stranger, gave her 50 gourdes to put them on the tap tap with her.  She instead bought them some food, and used her own 50 gourdes to pay their fare.  
 
"At 10:30, Ruth and I arrived at Maison.  As we entered the gate, we saw birth parents waiting for the meeting to begin, lined up along the side of the driveway.  Next to some of them sat three lonely looking, raggedy, thin boys.  This isn't uncommon, so I went inside to put my things away and check on Jean Marc and all the babies before I went to greet the birth families.  The moment I entered the room, Madame Gaston began telling me the story of the boys.  She told me again that she has 9 children of her own.  She has raised them, and I don't know how many countless others have called her Mama.  She said that when she saw those boys at 4 am on the street, hungry, dirty, smelly, it made her heart hurt.  She knew she couldn't leave them there; the street is no place for a child.   She is well aware of what happens to children living on the streets of Port au Prince.  She said that riding in the tap tap with them was a huge challenge because they smelled so very bad.  She could see the sickness on their skin, and in their eyes.  But she knew she had to do what she could to help them.  So she used $1.25 of her $3.25 that she made yesterday to get them closer to help.  She teared up telling me how the one cried because he was itching so badly.  I hugged her, tearing up myself, and told her I would check on them."

These are the women who love our kids.  Though we ache to have them home, we also know that they are loved deeply by the women of Maison. 

Read the rest here

Bible Geocoding

Yesterday, I was watching a lecture for my Biblical Interpretation class and the instructor showed us this website: www.openbible.info/geo

It is simply incredible.  Using the already cool program Google Earth, the OpenBible folks have taken it upon themselves to code the locations of every place named in the Bible, by book and chapter, on Google Earth. 

For example, in the picture at the right, I looked up Deuteronomy 34 and it mentions Mt Nebo, "Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan." 

With each chapter that you click on, it will show in one shot all the places mentioned in that chapter, so you may have to scroll in to see more clearly what you are looking for.  However, you can get right down to the surface level in many cases.  (It is important to point out that for this to work, you will need to install Google Earth on your computer). 

This seems as though it would be an amazing resource for homeschoolers or even just people interested more in biblical geography. 

A Palm Sunday meditation

    The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
    “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
    behold, your king is coming,
        sitting on a donkey's colt!”
    His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.-John 12:12-19


It had been prophesied hundreds of years earlier that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to shouts of rejoicing. "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"  The people had seem him work wonders.  They had seen him do the impossible.   In fact, he had just raised a man from the dead who had been entombed 4 days.  It was a miracle. 

Yet, in less than a week, all that would change.  The joyous shouts of "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" would turn into angry shouts of "crucify him!"  The fickle crowd, so easily swayed by the Pharisaic leadership and their own sinful hearts would soon demand his blood. 

It is so easy for us today, in the light of history, to look back with contempt upon the mercurial crowds who loved and accepted him one moment and despised and rejected him the next.  Yet we must recognize that we are no different.  We sing his praises on Sunday morning and by Monday, our bitter words and sinful actions lead him betray our confidence in him.  Based upon our actions, we may as well have been a part of the crowd shouting crucify. 

We are sinners.  That is why Christ came--to deliver us from our perpetual sin.  So while we celebrate his triumphal entry today proclaiming "blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" let us also remember that we are no different from the angry mob, all of us in need of a Savior.  

President Obama, Archbishop Dolan & religious liberty

Doug Groothuis points to an informative article by James Taranto from the Wall Street Journal looking at the debate over religious liberty that has been brought about by ObamaCare.  It is a long article, but worth the read.  It begins,

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. "I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me," says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me.

Mr. Obama knew that the mandate would pose difficulties for the Catholic Church, so he invited Archbishop Dolan to the Oval Office last November, shortly before the bishops' General Assembly in Baltimore. At the end of their 45-minute discussion, the archbishop summed up what he understood as the president's message:
"I said, 'I've heard you say, first of all, that you have immense regard for the work of the Catholic Church in the United States in health care, education and charity. . . . I have heard you say that you are not going to let the administration do anything to impede that work and . . . that you take the protection of the rights of conscience with the utmost seriousness. . . . Does that accurately sum up our conversation?' [Mr. Obama] said, 'You bet it does.'"

Read the rest here.