Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Os Guinness on evangelicalism

This is good -- an interview with Os Guinness... "Where have all the evangelicals gone?"

He concludes part 1 with

So the collapse of the Religious Right has not led to the rise of a more responsible position, except for the minority, but to something which is horrendous. The trouble is, if this goes on, it will tarnish the church for a generation and that’s the tragedy.

I put it even deeper. If you look at Europe, Europe is the most secular continent in the world because of reactions to corrupt state/church powers in the past. America never had that problem because of the genius of the First Amendment until the rise of the Religious Right and the culture wars, and you can see that in the educated classes, a steadily rising equivalent of the European repudiation of religion climaxing in the new atheist. We have created the monster we dislike, and it’s our fault.

When asked what the greatest problem facing evangelicals today, he answers,

The biggest problem is not specific theological issues, like grace or Jesus or whatever, it is theology itself. In other words, modernity shifts theology from authority to preference. Karl Barth used to put it like this, “Theology once had binding address,” it addressed you and then bound you, so there was a link between belief and behavior. Now, that link between belief and behavior has eroded. So now, what people believe and how they behave, who cares?

Take Evangelicals, Evangelicals have never had a higher, sharper, clearer view of Scripture, things like statements of inerrancy. But Evangelical behavior on the ground is permissive chaos. The fact is, it’s just a matter of preference. And everyone describes their freedom, including the emergent church. As soon as you can say the views you don’t like, the uptight, stuffy traditional views, legalistic or whatever and you throw out what you don’t like, it’s just a matter of preference. And you get what social scientist call a cafeteria spirituality, or a salad bar spirituality. In other words, you can go down the bar, and decide you like cabbage not lettuce? Fine. You like radishes not carrots? Fine. You like love, not hell? Fine. Check out hell, take out love, that’s fine.

evangelicalism over the next decade

I've been contemplating Michael Spencer's blogs on the future of evangelical churches in America (iMonk blog). His three articles on his predicted collapse of evangelicalism are found here. It is important, I believe, to read all three articles. I find myself in agreement with much he has to say.

Here are a few quotes...

The determination to follow in the methodological steps of numerically successful churches will be greater than ever. The result will be, in the main, a departure from doctrine to more and more emphasis on relevance, motivation and personal success….with the result being churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith. ...

For some time, we’ve been at a point that the decision to visit a particular evangelical church contained a fairly high risk of not hearing the Biblical Gospel. That experience will be multiplied and expanded in the years to come. Core beliefs will become less and less normative and necessary in evangelicalism. ...

A small portion of evangelicalism will continue down the path of theological re-construction and recovery. Whether they be post-evangelicals working for a reinvigoration of evangelicalism along the lines of historic “Mere Christianity,” or theologically assertive young reformed pastors looking toward a second reformation, a small, but active and vocal portion of evangelicalism will work hard to rescue the evangelical movement from its demise by way of theological renewal. ...

But it is impossible to not be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.” Christianity has flourished when it should have been exterminated. It has conquered when it was counted as defeated. Evangelicalism’s heyday is not the entirety of God’s plan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God given

Christmas means gifts.
In the wide, wheeling universe
There has been only one--
One gift once given,
One infinite, eternal, perfect joy--
One baby boy.

(Elizabeth Rooney)

O Simplicitas! (the folly of the Lord)

An angel came to me
And I was unprepared
To be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
Thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God's Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
The birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
It was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
My cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
The town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small,
Who still must learn to speak,
Lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
And moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd:
A stable set apart,
The sleepy cattle lowing;
And the incarnate Word
Resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
The folly of the Lord,
Wiser than all men's knowing.

(Madeleine L'Engle)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

like every newborn

"The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel;
the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength." (Psalm 93:1)

Like every newborn, he has come from very far.
His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star.
So glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length
To show his love for us, discarding power and strength.
Girded for war, humility his mighty dress,
He moves into the battle wholly weaponless.

(--Madeleine L'Engle, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Judah's Lion

Where does the lion, Judah's golden lion walk?
Stealthy under star by winter night his soft paws stalk.
Out on lonely hills a cold wind howls and darkness scowls;
Shepherds shiver -- danger in the dark! --some wild beast prowls.
Suddenly up springs a light; a voice rings like a bell:
"Joy, O men of Judah! Come and see! Noel! Noel!"
Where lies Judah's longed-for lion? "Come and see the sight!
Fear not--your golden one is couched among the lambs tonight."

(--Keith Patman, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

too much to ask

it seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
all she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction--spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable

and it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing--
God's shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven's hopes
and summon God's glory.

(--Luci Shaw, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


A friend sent me Luci Shaw's poem, "Mary's Song", and I posted it on the blog. We remembered we had that poem and others in a book entitled, A Widening Light: Poems on the Incarnation, Luci Shaw, ed. We enjoyed reading through them today. I plan to post some of these poems between now and Christmas. Here is one called "snow" by Keith Patman:

Was it a cold awakening Christmas morning
In a wooden trough,
In spite of straw and swaddling clothes and angel songs?
That was not to be the last time
You'd be laid upon the wood.
(There were Herods, Judases from the start
Among the stars and shepherds).
And did they smile, those simple folk,
And kiss your tiny hands and weep delight?
They'd touch those hands again someday,
Believing you through cracks and scars.
Then oh! the million Christmas mornings
When you'd lie, a babe again,
Beneath a million million trees
And hear the countless tongues chanting your name.
And oh! the white snow on black shingles
Where icy crystals capture windows
And fires glow and mistletoe is wreathed and strung.
But ah... will they remember crimson
Dripping from the iron nails
And will they pray, and will they know
A whiter white than

(--Keith Patman)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mary's Song, a poem

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

[by Luci Shaw, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, 1984]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

only he can fulfill the promises

I'm enjoying Colin Smith's advent blog. He's taken several days to cover the biblical theology of the OT, the narrative of redemption promised. It's definitely not your typical advent meditations.

But in so doing he shows the story line behind the incarnation, and thus the reason for the season:

In the blog this week, we have looked at the broad sweep of God’s promise.

* To create people in His image.
* To deliver His people from evil.
* To bring people from every nation into His blessing.
* To reconcile people to Himself through the sacrifice offered for our sins.
* To establish the Kingdom of His Son forever.
* To cause His people to walk in His ways, and now,
* To give new life from the grave.

Those who question the uniqueness of Jesus underestimate the promises of God. Who else could accomplish what God has promised?

God makes promises so great that only God Himself can deliver them. So God took human flesh. The Creator entered His own creation. God came and stood with us, acting for us, to fulfill His own promise. The Word who was with God, and was God, and by whom all things were made, became flesh and made His dwelling among us. (John 1:2, 14)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

essentials, non-essentials, chart included

Michael Patton has written an interesting article on essentials and non-essentials in Christian doctrine. And with a chart, that's a bonus! These lines aren't infallibly drawn. But this is a good introduction to a subject that many Christians should think through.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saying "Merry Christmas" 33 ways...

Afrikaans - 'n Geseende Kersfees en 'n voorspoedige Nuwejaar
Afrikander - Een Plesierige Kerfees
Albanian -- Gezuar Krishtlindje
Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri - Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Basque - Zorionstsu Eguberri. Zoriontsu Urte Berri On
Bengali - Bodo Din Shubh Lamona
Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce
Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian - Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
Celtic Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda=13=DF
Chinese -
(Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
(Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
(Hong Kong) Kung Ho Hsin Hsi. Ching Chi Shen Tan
Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian - Sretan Bozic
Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish - Gladelig Jul
Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
English - Merry Christmas
Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian - Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Farsi - Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish - Hyvaa joulua
French - Joyeux Noel
Frisian - Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
German - Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek - Kala Christouyenna!
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi - Bada Din Mubarak Ho
Hungarian - Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Icelandic - Gledileg Jol
Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italian - Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Kala Khristougena kai Eftikhes to Neon Etos
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Latvian - Priecigus Ziemas Svetkus un Laimigu Jauno Gadu
Lettish - Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu
Manx - Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori - Meri Kirihimete
Marathi - Shub Naya Varsh
Navajo - Merry Keshmish
Northern Sotho Matlhatse le matlhogonolo mo ngwageng o moswa.
Norwegian - God Jul Og Godt Nytt Aar
Pennsylvania German - En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Papiamento Bon Pasku i Felis Anja Nobo
Pig Latin Errymay ristmaskay nday appyhay ewnay earyay
Polish - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Portuguese - Feliz Natal
Rapa-Nui - Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Romanian - Craciun Fericit
Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom
Serbian - Hristos se rodi
Slovakian - Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Scottish - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur
Serbian - Hristos se rodi!
Singhalese - Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak - Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene - Vesele Bozicne. Screcno Novo Leto
Spanish - Feliz Navidad!
Swahili - Krismasi Njema!
Swedish - God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar
Tagalog - Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil - Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Thai - Sawat Dee Wan Kritsamas
Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian - Srozhdestvom Kristovym
Urdu - Bara Din Mubarak Ho
Vietnamese - Chung Mung Giang Sinh
Waray Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tu-ig
Welsh - Nadolig Llawen
Zulu: Nginifisela inhlanhla ne mpumelelo e nyakeni.

From Brigada.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the big question for the university

This is the big question that the postmodern university needs to answer...

"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. To the obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements--narrative, but also denotative, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on. ... Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?" (-- Jean-Francois Lyotard)

A "metanarrative" is a grand narrative, or a singular, overarching plan over history. Or, ultimate purpose to all of history. Postmodernism likes narratives, but rejects any such transcendent narrative.

But when you've removed a Creator, moral absolutes, transcendent authority, or ultimate meaning to history, upon what do you build? What meaning or purpose is there to education, other than to become technicians without a conscience? Jesus answers...

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:24-29 ESV)

And finally, who does the postmodern person give thanks to on Thanksgiving? He or she may feel thankful, and perhaps give thanks to others for good circumstances provided by them. But not in any ultimate sense, since most of our blessings are beyond our control, and actually beyond the control of others. So, do you thank "time, chance and matter"?

I give thanks to God for all things good, and for all things which work for good through Jesus Christ. He alone is the true God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

reasons for preaching

Craig Larson lists reasons why Christians should listen to, and be under, the preaching of God's word:

1. Preaching brings us before God’s Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.

2. Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves, we tend to ignore the very things in God’s Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.

3. Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience. This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time.

4. Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another person. This strikes right to the heart of individualism, which is such a plague on the church.

5. Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error. To use the biblical metaphor: Christians are sheep; false teachers are wolves; preachers are guardian shepherds. A preacher is a person called and gifted by God with spiritual authority for the care of souls in the context of God’s church.

6. Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological claims that are universally true, and apply these truths in a particular church – all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the church’s study that average Christians do not own.

7. Listening to preaching has a much lower threshold of difficulty. While many spiritual disciplines sound like exercises for the spiritually elite, young and old, educated and uneducated, disciplined and undisciplined can at least listen to a sermon.

A legitimate question is “If preaching is so central, how can so many Christians listen to it for decades and not be transformed?” Part of the answer may be weak or unbiblical preaching in which the Bible plays little or no role in the sermon. Or.…preaching that moves too quickly to what we should do before establishing who God is and what He has done for us.

--By Craig Larson, in Christianity Today, October 2009, pp 26-27.

dignity and depravity

"A paradox, this man: both son of God
And rebel, stellar powers bursting out
Through spirit mean and shoddy, cloaked about
With fine creative genius, yet a clod
Of dirt, compounded equally of sod
And everlasting consciousness, a lout
With moral aspirations, clutching clout
In empty power scrambles, sordid, odd.
Reflecting the Creator, given high
Preferment, ever served by angel hosts,
This son of wrath, preferring darkness, died,
His true paternity a barren boast.
God spoke: in his own image he made man;
And blemished though that image be, it stands."

(D. A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century)

Friday, November 20, 2009

this is part of the solution?

From the New York Times today...

SAN FRANCISCO — In January, Mike Rowland was so broke that he had to raid his retirement savings to move here from Boston.

A week ago, he and a couple of buddies bought a two-unit apartment building for nearly a million dollars. They had only a little cash to bring to the table but, with the federal government insuring the transaction, a large down payment was not necessary.

“It was kind of crazy we could get this big a loan,” said Mr. Rowland, 27. “If a government official came out here, I would slap him a high-five.”
So... how is this solution different from the problem?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

from solitude to community

I have appreciated the insights of Henri Nouwen on "Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry." Here are a couple of thoughts on the relationship of solitude and community...

Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we're going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that way. They cannot. We'll expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. But community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness: "I'm so lonely, and you're so lonely." It's solitude grabbing onto solitude: "I am the beloved; you are the beloved; together we can build a home." Sometimes you are close, and that's wonderful. Sometimes you don't feel much love, and that's hard. But we can be faithful. We can build a home together and create space for God and for the children of God. ...

This is where celebration, the second discipline of community, comes in. If you can forgive that another person cannot give you what only God can give, then you can celebrate that person's gift. Then you can see the love that person is giving you as a reflection of God's great unconditional love. "Love one another because I have loved you first." When we have known that first love, we can see the love that comes to us from people as the reflection of that. We can celebrate that and say, "Wow, that's beautiful!"

In our community we have to do a lot of forgiving. But right in the midst of forgiving comes a celebration: we see the beauty of people who quite often are considered marginal by society. With forgiveness and celebration, community becomes the place where we call forth the gifts of other people, lift them up, and say, "You are the beloved daughter and the beloved son." ...

From "Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry" by Henri Nouwen

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great concert

This weekend we really enjoyed the music and ministry of Doyle Dykes, and his daughter, Haley!

Friday, November 6, 2009

pop's garden

a brief history of bcf

Blacksburg Christian Fellowship, or BCF as it is popularly known, was founded in November 1969. Prior to this time several families had been meeting for Bible study and prayer, with a particular concern that the Lord raise up an effective biblical ministry to the students of the Virginia Tech campus. Growing from these meetings, the Lord led them to begin a public ministry on Sunday mornings. The Wesley Foundation agreed to the rental of their facilities, and the first meeting was held in November 1969, with about 30 people in attendance.

Since the first meeting BCF has been greatly blessed by the Lord and has seen a steady growth in ministry and in numbers. Two other local churches were formed in part from BCF. In 1974 the Lord led Houston Couch, who at that time was an Elder in BCF, to leave and start Dayspring Christian Fellowship. In 1980 Max Harris, who was a regular attender at BCF, was encouraged by the Elders and members to start a ministry which has now become Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. In spite of these departures, the numbers attending the Sunday services at BCF were such that it was necessary to start two services in 1981.

A new phase in the ministry of the Fellowship began in the Spring of 1988 with a request from the Board of the Wesley Foundation that BCF make alternate arrangements for a meeting place beginning in 1989. An intensive search of available properties led to the purchase of seven acres at 2300 North Main Street, and construction of the building began in May, 1989. The first service in the new building was held on December 17, 1989, and the building was dedicated on April 7, 1990.

The Lord has continued to bless the ministry of BCF in its new location, and an addition consisting of the chapel, expanded nursery facilities, and new classrooms was built in 1995. Continuing growth of the Fellowship made it clear that the ministry of a full-time elder was necessary for biblical shepherding of the body, and Sandy Young, who had attended BCF as a student and a new believer in the early 1970's, was appointed as the first full-time elder of the Fellowship in December 2000. Growth has continued since then, and in 2004 the elders and the church approved the planning phase of a second addition, to consist of new classrooms and possibly a new auditorium.

The church has always had the goal of equipping members for ministry and encouraging them to serve, but it was not until 2003 that this ministry vision was summarized in the vision statement: "We seek to be a fellowship of ministers, growing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and sharing God's love and the joy of knowing Him with the world."

By Paul Ribbe. This month is BCF's 40th anniversary!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday notes

“Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20)

The Holy Spirit [part 1 review]

1) He is a Divine Person (Rom 8:9, 14-15; Eph 4:30; Jn 14:26)
2) He brings God’s presence (John 14:26)
3) He brings supernatural power (Acts 4:31)
4) He has a holy purpose (John 16:14)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, a one-time event that places us into the Body of Christ and fills us initially. (Matt 3:11-12; Acts 1:4-6; 2:4; 11:15-16; 1 Cor 12:13)

“No one may ask a believer whether he has been baptized with the Spirit. The very fact that a man (or a woman) is in the body of Christ demonstrates that he (or she) has been baptized of the Spirit, for there is no other way of entering the body.” (Donald Grey Barnhouse)
The filling with the Spirit should be an ongoing event in the Christian life. (Acts 4:31; Eph 5:15-20)

1) What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

a. It is a command.
b. It is a plural (or corporate) command.
c. It is in the passive voice
d. It is in the present tense
Paraphrased: “You Christians, all of you, allow the Holy Spirit to go on and on filling you.”

2) How are we filled with the Spirit?

a. We must desire to be filled.
b. We must confess and forsake our sin. We cannot be filled with the Spirit until we are emptied of sin and of self.
“If we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God, and I believe that many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is already full with something else.” (D. L. Moody)

"Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean I have more of the Spirit; it means the Spirit has more of me." (Ray Pritchard)

c. We must fill ourselves with God’s word. Compare the parallel passage: Colossians 3:16-17.
d. We must trust God to do His work of filling us. (Romans 15:13)
e. We must be willing to do this daily.

“This is your day, Lord; I want to be at your disposal. I have no idea what these next 24 hours will bring. But before I begin, before I get my first cup of coffee, and even before I get dressed, I want you to know that from this moment on throughout the day I am yours, Lord. Help me to be a branch that abides in the vine, to lean on you, draw strength from you, and to have you fill my mind and thoughts. Take control of my senses so that I am literally filled with your presence and power and dynamic. I want to be your tool, your vessel today. I can’t make it happen. Without you I can accomplish nothing. And so I am saying “Lord fill me with your Spirit today.” (Chuck Swindoll, from his book “Flying Closer to the Flame”, on how he often begins the day by the side of his bed.)

3) What are the Consequences of being filled with the Spirit? (Ephesians 5:15-20)

a. It increases our fellowship “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
b. It enriches our worship: “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
c. It increases our thankfulness: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
d. It gives us new power in prayer: Eph 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
e. It enables us to submit to one another: Eph 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
f. It gives us power to live for Christ
g. It allows God to give us spiritual gifts
h. It allows the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives.

David's sermon here.

The Spirit-filled life explained here by Bill Bright.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

not faith in faith, but faith in Christ

Been thinking about my salvation in Christ, and more specifically about justification by faith.

The reformation underscored that we don't trust our own works for salvation, but it must be maintained that neither do we trust in faith, as if faith is something of merit.
Solus Christus comes before sola fide.

Oswald Chambers said it well in today's My Utmost For His Highest:

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)

I am not saved by believing; I realize I am saved by believing. It is not repentance that saves me, repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God; and by the supernatural miracle of God's grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The Spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.

The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvellous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement. The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done - "It is finished."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ageism (like Logan's Run?)

The assignment for one of my kids was to clip pictures from magazines which showed people in all stages of life.

Problem: no old people.

Now, these were not magazines like Vanity Fair or Vogue, where you would expect only beautiful people. These were magazines like Family Fun, Southern Living, and Better Homes and Gardens.

Where are the older people? There were a few, but they looked... well, good for their age. Nice weight, trim, youngish, still jogging. That is, old-er with a touch of gray and a glass of wine.

Are we so enamored with youth and beauty that we are afraid to publish pictures of people in wheelchairs or with walkers? (Thank you, UP!) I'm reminded of the old movie, Logan's Run, where everyone over 30 is expected to pass out of existence. They just disappear, leaving the world young and beautiful.

Now that I'm a grandparent I am becoming more aware of ageism. I'm thankful that where I am, in a college town, I still get many requests to mentor students and young adults.

This to me is one of the hallmarks of the work of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant, that the generations love one another and relate well together. Think of the baby Jesus bringing blessing, and being blessed by, two older saints, Anna and Simeon (Luke 2).

Consider these passages:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)

And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. (Malachi 4:6)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children... (Titus 2:3-4)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Modern FPs not usually from U.S.

I prefer collecting and restoring vintage fountain pens (which began when I inherited my grandfather's pens). Most of these are U.S.-made, such as Parker, Sheaffer, Conklin, and Wahl-Eversharp.

Not many fountain pens are made in the U.S. anymore, except by smaller,
specialty pen-makers, like Bexley and Edison.

Here are a few of my modern fountain pens, mainly from other countries:

From the left:
  • Hero 100 (Chinese)
  • Parker 45 (UK)
  • Sheaffer Balance II (US)
  • Haolilai 801 (Chinese)
  • Pelikan Technixx (German)
  • Aurora Ipsilon (Italian)
  • Pelikan m250 (German)
  • Waterman Kultur (French)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Receiving the Nobel Peace prize

I was totally surprised to hear our president being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For what accomplishment? Not that he won't one day deserve it, who knows? But I agree with the assessment given by Ross Douthat in this New York Times Op-Ed...

Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.

Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.

He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.

Big mistake.

And Douthat's conclusion...

.... the prize leaves Obama more open to ridicule. It confirms, as a defining narrative of his presidency, the gap between his supporters’ cloud-cuckoo-land expectations and the inevitable disappointments of reality. It dovetails perfectly with the recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which he was depicted boasting about a year’s worth of nonaccomplishments. And it revives and ratifies John McCain’s only successful campaign gambit — his portrayal of Obama as “the world’s biggest celebrity,” famous more for being famous than for any concrete political accomplishment.

Great achievements may still await our Nobel president. If Obama goes from strength to strength, then this travesty will be remembered as a footnote to his administration, rather than a defining moment.

But by accepting the prize, he’s made failure, if and when it comes, that much more embarrassing and difficult to bear.

Friday, October 9, 2009

God's rivals, as it were

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20 ESV)

“While God’s people can choose to do wrong in any number of ways—sin comes in many forms—the choice we face basically boils down to two ways to live: we can bow down to the one true God or we can bow down to other gods, or idols. … Not only is our decision to choose God personal to us, it is personally significant toward God. He regards our choices and our sins quite personally. Whatever the particulars when you sin you serve an idol; you serve someone or something other than God. And this is a personal affront to God. … At the root, sin is basically not trusting God. And idols are the focus of this mistrust. They are God’s rivals, as it were, for the hearts of his people. To make the point even more sharply, the Bible will refer to idolatry as spiritual unfaithfulness and adultery.”

(Mark Dever, The Message
of the Old Testament: Promises Made, p. 165)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The case for the deity of Christ

Jesus replied, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!"

At this, they picked up stones to stone him.

(John 8:55-59 NIV)
Outline and quotes from David's sermon last Sunday:

1. The Importance of the Doctrine

a. It is central to Christian faith.

b. The fact that Jesus Christ is God distinguishes Christianity from other major religions

c. If Jesus was not God, than His death had no special significance, and we are still the objects of God’s

d. If Jesus was not God, than He is not coming back again to establish His kingdom.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

(From the Nicene Creed, AD 325)

2. The Scriptural Evidence (Col 1:15-20)

3. The Claims of Christ.

a) The egocentric character of Christ’s teaching. (John 8:12; 11:25-26; Luke 4:20, 21 [quoting Isa 61:1, 2])

b) Jesus’ direct claims (John 8:55-59; 10:29-30; 20:26-29)

c) His indirect claims (Mark 2:5-12; John 5:21-23; 8:12; 9:1-7; 11:25-26,

4. The Character of Christ. (1 Peter 1:19-20; 2:22; John 8
:46; Matt 26:59-66)

"It is we [in our generation] who have pared the claws of the lion of Judah... He was emphatically not a dull man in His human life-time. It has been left to later generations to muffle up that shattering personality...
The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore — on the contrary, they thought Him too dynamic to be safe." (Dorothy Sayers, author and playwright )

"It is difficult enough for anyone, even a consummate master of imaginative writing, to create a picture of a deeply pure, good person, moving… in an impure environment, without making Him a… prude or a sort of plaster saint. How is it that, through all the Gospel traditions [we find a]… firmly-drawn portrait of an attractive young man moving freely among women of all sorts, including the decidedly disreputable, without a trace of sentimentality, unnaturalness, or prudery and yet, at every point, maintaining a simple integrity of character?" (C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament, 1967, pp. 63-64)

"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life." (Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955)

5. The Resurrection of Christ

a. The tomb was empty

b. Jesus was seen by many. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

c. The disciples were changed.

“How was it possible that his disciples, who by no means excelled in intelligence, eloquence, or strength of faith, were able to bring their victorious march of conversion .. after the shattering fiasco on Golgotha. In other words: How did it nevertheless come about that the adherents of Jesus were able to conquer this most horrible of all disappointments? There can be only one explanation for the transformation of a rabble of peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, frightened, scattered, and demoralized, hiding from the authorities, denying their leader, into the zealous and remarkably successful missionaries who took Christianity to the nations of the world. Between Good Friday and the end of Easter Sunday, something happened. What was it? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” (Pinchas Lapide, 1922-1997, Jewish scholar and diplomat.)
6. Conclusions.

This presents us with a clear set of choices about who Jesus is:

--He was a liar. He was just pretending to be God, but he was not. But this is not consistent with his teaching on truth and on love.

--He was deluded lunatic. But this does not agree with the balance and sanity of his teaching

--He was and is who he claimed to be, the Lord, the Son of God.

"I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the sort of thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or He would be the devil of hell. You must make a choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56.)

a. Because Jesus is God, His death enormous significance, and those who trust in Him are no longer the objects of God’s wrath.

b. Because Jesus is God, then we must live for Him.

c. Because Jesus is God, then He is coming back again to establish His kingdom.

"There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin,
He only could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in." (children's hymn)

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16-17 NIV)
Full sermon available here.

Recommended reading: Basic Christianity by John Stott.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reconfiguring the Lutheran church

I have so appreciated the faithfulness and tireless efforts of Bob Benne and others (including Gerry McDermott) as they have sought to keep Lutheranism true to its biblical foundations.

Bob wrote this after the CORE meeting in Indiana to chart a new course for conservative Lutherans. I was especially moved by the last paragraph.

My Interpretation of the CORE Assembly at Fishers, Indiana, Last Weekend

I haven’t been so excited about church life beyond the local parish for a long time. The camaraderie, the singing, the hospitality, the powerful talks, the affirmation of biblical and confessional truth, the focus on the future……all were expressed in almost overwhelming portions. The 1,200 souls present were full of life and determination. The CORE assembly was quite an experience.

For the first time in 25 years I felt liberation from the arduous struggle for the soul of the ELCA and freedom for the shaping of a future church life in which I could joyously participate. I had hoped for such a constructive turning toward the future at Fishers and my expectations were more than fulfilled.

When retired (?) Bishop Paull Spring—a very sober and churchly man—pronounced on Friday evening that the ELCA had fallen into heresy and that we must—with the Spirit’s help—engage in a process that will lead to a reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism, one could feel a surge of energy and excitement that propelled the assembly forward. His speech was preceded by two other powerful addresses by retired Bishop Ken Sauer and CORE leader Ryan Schwarz, both of whom encouraged the
assembly not to get hung up with bitterness and anger toward the ELCA, but turn our attention to a new and unprecedented future.

Saturday was the day for more practical concerns, especially the forging of a Constitution that would allow us to organize and to guide our life for at least a year, at which time we hope for a more conclusive definition of who we are to be as a church body. We changed our name from Coalition for Reform, which described our earlier role within the ELCA, to Coalition for Renewal, which indicates our independence from the ELCA. The new Constitution defines us provisionally as “a free-standing synod, taking on those ministries that synods typically carry out,” with no doubt a bishop-like figure to lead us. Indeed, I will consider the “Bishop” of CORE to be my interim bishop until the dust clears and we have a sharper notion of what sort of body CORE will become. Such a leader will oversee CORE’s effort to take seriously its Confession of Faith, which recovers and reaffirms the orthodox faith of the Great Tradition, from which the ELCA has departed in many ways, not least of which is its acceptance of homosexual conduct.

Self-definition is particularly difficult because of the complexity of kinds of membership. Congregations, reform movements, individual laypersons and pastors, networks of churches, perhaps even Synods, will become members of CORE. Significant among the joiners may be the large network of African and Hispanic churches. Many of these persons and bodies will remain within the ELCA, some for a time and some permanently; many will leave. How to accommodate and support each member will provide CORE’s challenge for the coming year. Even so, there is little doubt that CORE will become a synod or churchly body that will harbor and provide missional opportunities for those of us whose loyalty can no longer be affixed to the national ELCA and many of its Synods.

One of the first actions of CORE will be to hold a major theological conference in the early fall of 2010, probably in Columbus, Ohio. The point here will be to project a biblical and theological vision of what Lutheranism at its best can be. We want CORE to proceed in accordance with such a vision, and we are also wagering that such a vision will be attractive to Lutherans currently in many Lutheran bodies. In due time, perhaps, North American Lutheranism will be reconfigured. Along the way CORE intends to do foreign and home missions, to cultivate ecumenical relationships that have been sorely wounded by the actions of the ELCA, and to attend to theological education.

For me the assembly ended on a touching note. I spotted a friend with whom I had grown up in our home church in Nebraska. He is the son of that congregation who himself became a pastor, now retired. Further, his father was my pastor, who confirmed me and from whom I had taken the bread and cup for many years. Some nearly providential happenstances allowed me to be the first in line to take the bread from my friend who was helping in distribution. When our eyes—his uncannily resembling his father’s—met and he offered me the bread and words of Jesus, time seemed to disappear and an unbroken connection from his dear father through him to me seemed to take place. But this was not just a human encounter, it was also an encounter with the living Christ who binds us together now and in eternity. Moreover, what brought us together humanly speaking was the love for an orthodox Lutheran church we used to know and hope to recover in the coming years.

--Dr. Robert D. Benne, is on the faculty of Roanoke College, in the Department of Religion/Philosophy and is Director of the Center for Religion and Society.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

shocking... hear Whoopi Goldberg's take on sexual ethics. Is this how the film industry protects one of its own?

See "Whoopi Goldberg on Polanski Crime".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

briz & his boys at thompson field

Looking forward to taking in the VT men's soccer game v. NC State on Sunday afternoon. Great field; great coach; great team.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sheaffer Snorkel

Finally finished restoring this fountain pen, one of the most complex made, but one of the coolest. First the parts, then the finished product. Fills perfectly with a tube that extends when you twist the cap. And it writes like a dream -- a Sheaffer Statesman with a Triumph nib made of Palladium/silver. Made sometime between 1952-56. I picked it up from a flea market for $3. Worth much more than that now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

do you pray?

Came upon this good quote today, from "the bishop" (of Liverpool)...

This I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.

From J.C. Ryle, “A Call to Prayer.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the Trinity

Wayne Grudem gives the simplest description of the Triune God:

“God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Berkhof gives a little more, adding the important distinction that Person is not an Individual, but persona (Latin). This may be more in the direction of Karl Barth's eternal semi-modalism. (Not to be confused with old Modalism.)

“The Bible teaches that, while He exists in three Persons, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, these are not three persons in the ordinary sense of the word; they are not three individuals, but rather three modes or forms in which the Divine Being exists. At the same time they are of such a nature that they can enter into personal relations. The Father can speak to the Son and vice versa, and both can send forth the Spirit. The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that each one of the Persons possesses the whole of the divine essence, and that this has no existence outside of and apart from the Persons. The three are not subordinate in being the one to the other, though it may be said that in order of existence the Father is first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third, an order which is also reflected in their work.” (Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine, 2:7)

Friday, September 18, 2009

St Patrick's breastplate

Sometimes people think the doctrine of the Trinity is a speculative and irrelevant formula, far removed from daily life.

But here's how Patrick (aka St. Patrick), missionary to the Irish in the fourth century, applied God's Triune nature at the beginning of the day. Very realistic and practical...

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pleasure reading

Man, I just love sitting down with a volume of Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons!

No printed sermons feed me like his. In fact not many other books, period. I can even hear the words in my mind with his Welsh accent.

This is the first volume of his series in Acts, preached at Westminster Chapel in, I think, the mid- 1960s. Here's timeless presentation of the gospel and biblical truth.

Highly recommended.

I have many biblical and theological works I need to read, but this is what I read for sheer pleasure. It's soul-searching, but so very enriching. With such a large view of God, Lloyd-Jones puts all human pride and problems in their place.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Another reminder

As I plan for another year of ministry I need reminders of what it is I'm called to do. There are soooo many needs and opportunities for Christian leaders. I go back to passages like this:

"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4 ESV)

And Psalm 23, describing to us God's ministry as a Shepherd who 1) feeds, 2) guides, 3) protects, and 4) cares for the flock.

Banner of Truth posted this today, a pastoral charge by John Murray, where he summarizes our calling:

You have been called as minister in this congregation and you have been ordained in pursuance of that call. There are many functions which devolve upon you in that particular capacity, but I want to draw your attention particularly to two of these functions because I believe they are the two main functions which devolve upon the minister of the gospel. And these two functions are the preaching of the Word and pastoral care.

Read the rest of the charge here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Remembering Beslan, Sept 3

Last year we spent three hours at church one afternoon with Russian representatives from North Ossetia, talking on the subject of faith in the aftermath of tragedy.

Many of these delegates were psychologists or social service professionals who had dealt with the aftermath
of the Beslan School Hostage crisis, September 1-3, 2004.

At the end of this siege on September 3, there were nearly a thousand casualties, including the death of 334 hostages, of which 186 were children.

These workers had come to Virginia Tech a year after our 4.16 to dialogue with us. Most of the representatives were Russian Orthodox and spoke freely of their faith and relationship to the church.

It was a precious and intensely moving time.

One of them, a social worker, said that there is no problem for mental health professionals to advise their counselees to seek God and attend church, something not usually allowed to American mental health professionals.

They said, "There is no possible answer in this life for these ki
nds of tragedies."

I told them we would remember the anniversary of their loss.

And it is very important to remember.