Friday, February 25, 2011

what we have in common with Gadaffi

Here's Carl Trueman on "Me and Muammar: What We Have In Common":

"And as we shudder at the sight of this lunatic rambling on our television screens, it is worth remembering that Gadaffi is only an extreme example of that which dwells in each of us.  The desire to be in control, to make a mark, to make ourselves indispensable: these are all drives that are universal within fallen humanity.  Our worlds may be smaller, the damage we do somewhat more modest, but our ambitions are in their own ways just as absurd as his." 

The blog post is here

approach, my soul

Sojourn Music is graciously giving away an mp3, “Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat.”  The words and music are by Jamie Barnes, inspired by John Newton’s hymn:

Approach my soul, the mercy seat
Where Holy One and helpless meet
There fall before my Judges’ feet
Thy promise is my only plea, O God

Send wings to lift the clutch of sin
You who dwell between the cherubim
From war without and fear within
Relieve the grief from the shoulders of crumbling men

O God—Pour out your mercy to me
My God, Oh what striking love to bleed.

Fashion my heart in your alchemy
With the brass to front the devil’s perjury
And surefire grace my Jesus speaks
I must. I will. I do believe. O Lord.

Chords & lyrics here in pdf.  

Friday, February 18, 2011

fred smith letter

I have always profited from reading the letters of those who were good mentors.  I think of John Newton and Martyn Lloyd-Jones as examples.  

Fred Smith, former Dallas businessman now deceased, apparently was a good letter-writer.  He wrote the following to a friend after a long conversation about a life crisis.  There's some very good counsel here from a man who was mentor to many.  I've highlighted some portions that spoke to me.  


Dear Friend:

You spoke of your struggle taking the advice of many as you make decisions and the guilt you feel when you fail.  You say over and over you want to do the will of God.  Let me think out loud with you on this.

I firmly believe God has instituted processes that work and they don’t depend on doing what we cannot do.  He came to give us life “and that more abundantly” which I don’t think you are enjoying nor displaying.  It isn’t your unbelief but their unrealistic advice.

I fully believe in the “witness of the Spirit” and what Chambers says about seeking God’s will:  “commit it to Him and go about your normal business expecting Him to check you if you wander out of His will.”  This certainly makes sense to me.  God loves us.  He came seeking us, not us seeking Him.  This is the uniqueness of the Christian faith.

Any time we want to be related to Him and are willing to confess and turn, He is there.  It isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling; it is a fact.  Act on that fact as you go about doing the list of responsible things on your list.  Try it before you dismiss the idea.  Ask Him for permission to try it.  Try dealing directly with God for a change and not going from person to person asking counsel, then becoming muddled and confused.

I believe God works intelligently,and if we have a heart after God, He gives us clarity of thought.  You are letting bad counsel cloud your thinking.  Then, you accept this cloudiness as testing.  It is easy to put every bad event under the direction of God as if it were the judgment of God.  Most of the time I feel it is not.

I firmly believe God wants you to be an example of how a Christian goes through triumphantly the various vicissitudes that befall our fallen race.  Don’t dismiss everything as a test from God.  Be very slow to believe this and then only after convincing proof.  It can get to be a sort of reverse “spoiled brat syndrome.”  It is as if you demand personal and exceptional attention of God.  Be careful to avoid wanting to be “teacher’s pet” by claiming your troubles to be personally designed as tests.

Most of what you are experiencing is “common to man.”  Ask your friends to pray, not advise right now.  And don’t expect answers to come in mystical clothing.  Display as much maturity as you possibly can.  I fully believe you are coming through.  You belong to God.
To read more writings of Fred Smith go to www.breakfastwithfred.com

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the mustangs of las colinas

When we lived and worked in Dallas I always enjoyed my visits to nearby Las Colinas.  In the plaza is one of my favorite sculptures, the "Mustangs of Las Colinas", which is the largest equestrian sculpture in the world.  With the water fountains placed near the horse's hooves it really looks like they are running through the water!





 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the king who sings blues

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.   (Psalm 13:3-4 ESV)  

"My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."  (Matthew 26:38) 

"What must be said … is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. … Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood.  (C. S. Lewis,
Reflections on the Psalms)

In Romans 8 we learn that creation “groans,” (stenazo word group, "to groan or sigh with deep concern or stress"), lamenting its fallen-ness and death (8:22).  We too groan inwardly (8:23), desperately longing for full liberation as children of God.  Then -- and this is a bit of a surprise -- the Holy Spirit himself "groans" (8:26), "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  This shows us that, not only does creation groan, and we ourselves groan, but the Holy Spirit himself comes beside us, singing our lament, sighing for God’s kingdom to come in its fullness.  (This word for groaning / sighing was also used of Jesus in Mark 7:34.)

"Thus, Christians do not say to God, 'I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.'  That would be suicidal.  Rather, they say, 'I do not understand you in this  situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.'  It is therefore reasonable to trust even when we do not understand.  We may be in the dark about what God is doing, but we are not in the dark about God."  (Os Guinness, Unspeakable)

"At the hospital, it was not the medical staff, grateful as I was for them, but the crucifixes—in the lobby and in the patients' rooms—that provided a total account of my condition.  In that cruciform image of Christ, the combination of physical pain and the assurance of a life greater than death gave objective expression and meaning to the sense of promise and transcendence that lived within the midst of my suffering.” (James Loder, The Transforming Moment)

“At the center of the Christian faith is a Cross that is not alien to tragedy, and a savior not complacent in the face of suffering.  Christ is not blind to the pains of the world nor passive aggressive in the face of despair.  On the contrary, the Cross is a portrayal of passion, not passivity… Christ does not refuse our sense of tragedy or awareness of pain.  He bears it in love, affirming our condition, carrying our sorrows to the end, all the way to the heart of God.”  (Jill Carattini)

Ultimately, our sorrows are designed to bring us to the Lord.  God is the author of all righteousness, life, truth, peace, friendship, joy and community.  When we lose any one of these blessings we grieve for that which only God can give and preserve.  We therefore sing with confidence (blues + hope) not because of some private wish fulfillment, but because we have come to believe that our deepest sorrows are actually deep yearnings for God himself and his Kingdom. And these good things will be restored to us through Jesus Christ.  Our hearts are being shaped after God’s heart when we let our sorrows drive us to God himself, and to yearn for his kingdom to come in its fullness.  Sorrow begins to mature us when we see that what we really want is Him!



How to write a biblical blues song: 

•    First stanza… Call upon the Lord and tell him how you really feel.  Do not rush past this stage.
•    Second stanza… Ask him for what you need. Call on him to intervene, to step in and do what only he can do.
•    Third stanza… Proclaim your commitment to trust him no matter what.  Ponder the wonder of the cross and empty tomb.
•    Fourth stanza… Praise him for what he’s done and will do.  Realize that what you really need is God himself. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

dallas

I like this picture.  We enjoyed living in Dallas for 5 years. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

lack of diversity... of all places!

Gerry McDermott's post in his Northampton blog led me to an interesting NY Times article.

Apparently, in an annual gathering of social scientists -- who routinely identify prejudice and bias -- it was discovered that there is a stunning lack of perception of their own bias and non-diversity:   


Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”


It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.


“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.
More at the NYTimes article here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

humanity 2.0

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. ...  Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."  (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 45 ESV)

"Adam and Christ stand against each other as two great figures at the entrance of two worlds, two creations, the old and the new... And in their actions and fates, lie the decisions for all who belong to them, because all men are comprehended in them."  (Hermann Ridderbos)

"Every man will finish his life in the shadow of one of these men."  (Robert Lewis)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

warfield on the word and faith


I came upon some good quotes by B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) on the Word and and on faith. (The picture above is from his grave in Princeton Cemetery).   

The Bible is authoritative, for it is the Word of God; it is intelligible, for it is the word of man. Because it is the word of man in every part and element, it comes home to our hearts. Because it is the word of God in every part and element, it is our constant law and guide.

When the Christian asserts his faith in the divine origin of his Bible, he does not mean to deny that it was composed and written by men or that it was given by men to the world. He believes that the marks of its human origin are ineradicably stamped on every page of the whole volume. He means to state only that it is not merely human in its origin.

Why may we not believe that the God who brings his purposes to fruition in his providential government of the world, without violence to second causes or to the intelligent free agency of his creatures, so superintends the mental processes of his chosen instruments for making known his will, as to secure that they shall speak his words in speaking their own?

It is never on account of its formal nature as a psychic [mental, psychological] act that faith is conceived in Scripture to be saving. It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or nature of faith, but in the object of faith.

Our faith itself, though it be the bond of our union with Christ through which we receive all His blessings, is not our savior. We have but one Savior; and that one Savior is Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing that we are and nothing that we can do enters in the slightest measure into the ground of our acceptance with God. Jesus did it all.

He who begins by seeking God within himself may end by confusing himself with God.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

stilled and quieted

"My heart is not proud, O Lord, 
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters 
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; 
like a weaned child with it mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me."  (Psalm 131)

"Nothing comes into our life apart from the plan of God.  Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.   Not a cell in your body nor the orbit of a planet is out of His control.  There is great comfort in the assurance that every detail of your life has come through God’s hand – God does not make mistakes and every trial comes with a divine purpose.  The purpose may be to grow in obedience, or humility and dependence.  If the Bible says that Christ learned obedience from what He suffered, how much more do we need to learn obedience too."  (Joe Kelley, Sunday sermon at BCF)

"The brain’s overall complexity is almost beyond belief.  One synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor – with both memory-storage and information-processing elements – than a mere on/off switch.  In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches.  A single human brain has more switches that all the computers and Internet connections on Earth.” (From "New imaging method developed at Stanford reveals stunning details of brain connections")