Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Coming out in October

Tim Keller's newest book, slated for an October, 2009, release:
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.

Here's the blurb:
The New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God and a nationally renowned minister, Timothy Keller exposes the error of making good things “ultimate” in his latest book, and shows readers a new path toward a hope that lasts.

Success, true love, and the life you’ve always wanted. Many of us placed our faith in these things, believing they held the key to happiness, but with a sneaking suspicion they might not deliver. The recent economic meltdown has cast a harsh new light on these pursuits. In a matter of months, fortunes, marriages, careers, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. No wonder so many of us feel lost, alone, disenchanted, and resentful. But the truth is that we made lesser gods of these good things —gods that can’t give us what we really need. There is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings— and now is the perfect time to meet him again, or for the first time.

The Bible tells us that the human heart is an “idol- factory,” taking good things and making them into idols that drive us. In Counterfeit Gods, Keller applies his trademark approach to show us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the unvarnished truth about societal ideals and our own hearts. This powerful message will cement Keller’s reputation as a critical thinker and pastor, and comes at a crucial time—for both the faithful and the skeptical.
I've already got it on the order list.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday quotes

"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you." (Revelation 3:1-3)

Soren Kierkegaard spoke of how easily and quietly we can lose our fervor in Christ and how great of a danger it is. He says: “The greatest danger, that of losing oneself, can pass off in the world as quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, bound to be noticed.” In other words, most things in life, from as sacred as a spouse to as trivial as five dollars, if lost, gets noticed. But for a believer to drift into complacency, maybe a couple weeks of not spending time in the Word, maybe getting involved in a relationship that’s not really centered on Christ, a couple lifestyle changes here, a couple there. Pretty soon a few weeks turns in to 6 months, 6 months turns into a few years – and we’ve just drifted off as quiet as a mouse. The church at Sardis misunderstood that danger. And so Christ calls them to be alert and awake. The question for the church today, is will we too wake up? (Danny White)

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." (1 Peter 5:6-9)

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:5)

"My dad is a retired air force pilot. I am very proud of what he’s done to serve our country and what he still does to this day. Needless to say I grew up around jets and I loved it. I’ve always been fascinated by jets – their size, their speed, their power, not just in their engines but the power behind all the weapons they carry fascinates me as well. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen how much military jets cost, but their sticker price has always caught my attention also. When a pilot is flying they have to be completely engaged and aware of their surroundings. A pilot can’t afford to sneeze much less fall asleep. Can you imagine as a pilot flies, with his hands grabbing the control stick, knuckles white, how attentive he must be? Things happen fast at 800 mph. He must remain engaged. Life comes at us fast but the cause of Christ must be carried forward. The question for the church and for our hearts is, will we wake up, will we fight the good fight, and engage in the process?" (Danny White)

"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations."
(Isaiah 61:10-11)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where've you been?

As I was preparing for a wedding I came across the lyrics of this song, sung by Kathy Mattea, entitled "Where've You Been?" It really touched me...

Claire had all but given up
When she and Edwin fell in love
She touched his face and shook her head
In disbelief she sighed and said
In many dreams I've held you near
Now at last you're really here

Where've you been?
I've looked for you forever and a day
Where've you been?
I'm just not myself when you're away

He asked her for her hand for life
Then she became a salesman's wife
He was home each night by 8
But one stormy evening he was late
Her frightened tears fell to the floor
Until his key turned in the door

Where've you been?
I've looked for you forever and a day
Where've you been?
I'm just not myself when you're away

They'd never spent a night apart
For 60 yrs she heard him snore
Now they're in a hospital
In separate beds on different floors

Claire soon lost her memory, forgot the names of family
She never spoke a word again
Then one day they wheeled him in
He held her hand and stroked her head
In a fragile voice she said

Where've you been?
I've looked for you forever and a day
Where've you been?
I'm just not myself when you're away
I'm just not myself when you're away

a recent trade

Through the fountain pen network I traded a Sheaffer Admiral (touchdown) for this pen, an Eversharp Symphony (a 702, second-generation, circa 1950).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

some new additions

This is a Mabie Todd Swan, from a company originally in New York but then moved to England. The Swan was advertised as "the pen of the British empire." In fact it is a wonderfully writing pen, 14k nib, on the bold side. All it needed was a sac replacement.

And now my favorite pen to date, a 1928 red Parker Duofold. This is a fantastic fountain pen, the one that put Parker on the map. They took a bit of a gamble in making pens in colors (most before had been hard black rubber, HBR). This one is in red permanite, a Dupont celluloid. One of the best made fountain pens of all time.

Calvin's critics

John Calvin -- like Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards many years later -- would be loved by many, and also abhorred by many. Philip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII, recorded the various tributes to Calvin after his death. It is fascinating to note the praises of his critics contrast with the stereotypes many modern Protestants have of the man.

For example, a statement of a prominent Roman Catholic of his day...

"Calvin had morals better regulated and settled than ____, and shewed from early youth that he did not allow himself to be carried away by the pleasures of sense… With a dry and attenuated body, he always possessed a fresh and vigorous intellect, ready in reply, bold in attack; even in his youth a great faster, either on account of his health, and to allay the headaches with which he was continually afflicted, or in order to have his mind more disencumbered for the purposes of writing, studying, and improving his memory. Calvin spoke little; what he said were serious and impressive words; he never appeared in company, and always led a retired life. He had scarcely his equal; for during twenty-three years that he retained possession of the bishopric of Geneva, he preached every day, and often twice on Sundays. He lectured on theology three times a week; and every Friday he entered into a conference which he called the Congregation. His remaining hours were employed in composition, and answering the letters which came to him as to a sovereign pontiff from all parts of heretical Christendom.... Calvin had a brilliancy of spirit, a subtlety of judgment, a grand memory, an eminent erudition, and the power of graceful diction.... No man of all those who preceded him has surpassed him in style, and few since have attained that beauty and facility of language which he possessed." --Florimond De Ræmond (1540–1602): Counseiller du Roy au Parlement de Bordeaux. A Roman Catholic.

A century later, Joseph Scaliger (1640–1609), an accomplished scholar (knowing thirteen languages, and a master of philology, history, chronology, philosophy, and theology, as well as a severe critic of Calvin), had this to say:

"Calvin is an instructive and learned theologian, with a higher purity and elegance of style than is expected from a theologian. The two most eminent theologians of our times are John Calvin and Peter Martyr; the former of whom has treated sound learning as it ought to be treated, with truth and purity and simplicity, without any of the scholastic subtleties. Endued with a divine genius, he penetrated into many things which lie beyond the reach of all who are not deeply skilled in the Hebrew language, though he did not himself belong to that class. ... O how well Calvin apprehends the meaning of the Prophets! No one better … O what a good book is the Institutes! ... Calvin stands alone among theologians."

And this from James (Jacob) Arminius (1560–1609), the founder of Arminianism, who has nothing of the vitriol that modern-day Arminians have toward Calvin. Arminius writes,

"Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Calvin's 500th birthday, some quotes

“Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.”

“However many blessings we expect
from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.”

“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.”

“No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.”

“[A]ll men were created to busy themselves with labor for the common good.”

“The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.”

“Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?”

“Every one of us is, even from his mother’s wo
mb, a master craftsman of idols.”

“It behooves us to accomplish what God requires of us, even when we are in the greatest despair respecting the results.”

“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ.”

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I s
aw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bigger than Jesus, indeed

Bigger than Jesus, indeed

brumidi corridors

I came across this picture recently, which I took a couple of summers ago when we toured the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Artist Constantino Brumidi emigrated from Italy to the U.S. in 1852 and made an extensive study of native species of animals and plants of America, as well as the history of our nation. He incorporated these into stunning frescoes throughout the halls of the Capitol. These hallways have recently been restored and re-opened to the public.

If you get to Washington, it's really worth your time to see them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christian meditation

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

(Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)

One main difference between eastern mystical forms of meditation and biblical meditation is that eastern methods practice an emptying of the mind, whereas the biblical form has an object: God and his word.

Our culture is so taken up with a rapid and superficial understanding of things -- often Christians carry this over into their approach to the Scripture. We read God's Word and then rush off to something else and promptly forget what we have read.

Tim Keller gives this definition of biblical meditation: “[Meditation is] to bring the truth of God into contact with the center of one's being until the Triune God and all his Word becomes real to you so that you seek him. [It is] thinking a truth in, and thinking a truth out, until the ideas become 'big' and 'sweet', moving and affecting, and until the reality of God is sensed upon the heart. Meditation is strictly speaking neither the Bible nor prayer but rather is the Bible turning to prayer.”

He gives this very helpful -- and I have found usable -- plan from "Preaching the Gospel in a Post-Modern World", RTS D.Min course, 2002...

Rather than simply studying our Bibles and praying in a merely cognitive way, our 4-fold outline included the discipline of a 'middle' practice ("meditation") between Bible reading and prayer as well as the expectation of a final practice ("contemplation") that is the fruit of all we do. The method:

Reading (Listening) – Slow, gentle reading of Scripture repeatedly, looking for things not seen, appreciated, or enjoyed before. Listening for God's voice and stopping to taste the truth as it goes by. Write down main things learned.

Meditation (Reflecting) - Take each and think out: "How can this lead me 1) to adore God? 2) to confess sin? 3) to petition for grace? And 4) how is Jesus the ultimate a) revelation of this attribute? b) solution for this sin? c) source of this grace?

Prayer (Speaking) - After meditation (or as soon as you become engaged) pray meditations: 1) adore God. 2) repent for sin. 3) thanks for Christ. 4) ask for aid. Then 5) move on to 'kingdom prayer' for individual, church, and world needs.

Contemplation (Sensing) - Not as much a fourth 'stage' as the fruit of the rest. It is a spiritual sense upon the heart of the reality of God. It can mingle with the other practices or come in strong and displace them. Essence: an adoring gaze at Him. It is at bottom a gift.

What I seek to practice at this point is to read a Scripture passage gently (not in a rush, not with a teaching-others agenda in mind, but seeking to be taught myself by the Holy Spirit). I then note some individual verses or phrases that are illumined to me, or stand out in some way. These I note in my journal. I may write a verse on a card for review or memorization, and repeat the verse several times, each time emphasizing a different word or phrase within it. Then I turn it into a prayer and talk to God about it.

I have begun using more of the method that Keller gives above (
which actually comes from a long tradition within the church), and especially the four questions he gives under Meditation (reflection).

Finally, here are a couple of other definitions of Christian meditation...

"To [meditate] is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord ever-present, all-seeing within you." (Theophan the Recluse)

“By solemn or stated meditation I intend the thoughts of some subject, spiritual and divine, with the fixing, forcing, and ordering of our thoughts about it, with a design to affect our own hearts and souls with the matter the things contained in it. By this design it is distinguished from the study of the word wherein our principle aim is to learn the truth, or to declare it unto others; and so also from prayer, whereof God himself is the immediate object. But it meditation it is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and humiliation." (Richard Baxter)