Gotta Get 'em SOMETHING

According to a new study by The Barna Group, Christian parents this year will spend more than $1 billion on media products — such as DVDs, CDs, magazines and video games — for their children even though they have misgivings about the moral content of some of the resources.

- 87 percent of [Christian!] parents purchased DVDs of movies or television programs for their children under 13, but one-quarter of them did not feel comfortable with the products they purchased.

- 33 percent of [Christian!] parents who bought CDs for their children had concerns about the content of the music.

- About half of Christian [!] parents who bought magazines for their children had misgivings

- 46 percent of those [Christian parents!] who purchased video games for their teens had concerns about the content.


Currently Reading

Priest, Prophet and King: Restoring Biblical Leadership in the Home
by Keith Hoffman


I'm up to chapter 3, and it is excellent. Great Christmas present for dad!
Author is local to the area I grew up, which is fun.

Faith and Works

This is impolitic to do, but I'm young and crazy.

I really did like this book. It is a lightning rod in the Reformed theological thunderstorm of the last few years, and I liked it. This puts me inside one camp and outside the other; thus the impolitic thing.

Anyone interested in Federal Vision (FV) ought to read it for good background - you don't have to be a theologian to read it.

Do you wonder why FV folks make such a big deal about baptism?
This book will tell you.

Do you wonder how we can preach salvation by grace alone, not by works, and then turn around and call for obedience and good works?
This book will tell you.

There are a few sentences to watch out for, where he goes too far ("No one should even attempt to approximate God's judgment" - pg 96), but overall it is well balanced, draws excellent connections between Abraham's covenant and the Great Commission I'd never seen, shows the proper relationship between faith and obedience which is present throughout Scripture, and affirms our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone ("Protestantism has always insisted that salvation is wholly by God's grace. We have rightly rejected the idea that a human being can do anything to achieve his own salvation. We have rightly rejected the idea that a person can work to merit the reward of eternal life" - pg 61).

Here is a teaser to get you to buy the book.

"Instead of looking at covenant from the perspective of regeneration, we ought to look at regeneration from the perspective of covenant. When that happens, baptism, the sign and seal of the covenant, marks the point of conversion. Baptism is the moment when we see the transition from death to life [Romans 6:1-4] and a person is saved [making sense of 1 Peter 3:21].

"This is not to say that baptism accomplishes the transition from death to life, or that baptism causes a person to be born again. That is the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is rightly rejected by Reformed churches. The Holy Spirit works where, when, and how he pleases, not necessarily at the precise moment of baptism" (pg 94).


Wow, I'm actually getting some comments again. Been a while.

Note the record-high 2 different comments on one post on Nov 13...

Almost makes me wish for the old 30-comments-on-homosexuality days...

Not really.

Poem of the Day

Just to prove that Poe wasn't just a horror author...

by Edgar Allen Poe

So sweet the hour, so calm the time,
I feel it more than half a crime,
When Nature sleeps and stars are mute,
To mar the silence ev'n with lute.
At rest on ocean's brilliant dyes
An image of Elysium lies:
Seven Pleiades entranced in Heaven,
Form in the deep another seven:
Endymion nodding from above
Sees in the sea a second love.
Within the valleys dim and brown,
And on the spectral mountain's crown,
The wearied light is dying down,
And earth, and stars, and sea, and sky
Are redolent of sleep, as I
Am redolent of thee and thine
Enthralling love, my Adeline.
But list, O list, - so soft and low
Thy lover's voice tonight shall flow,
That, scarce awake, thy soul shall deem
My words the music of a dream.
Thus, while no single sound too rude
Upon thy slumber shall intrude,
Our thoughts, our souls - O God above!
In every deed shall mingle, love.

From moralism to Christ

C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the 16th Century, p. 187

"In theological language, no man can be saved by works. The whole purpose of the 'gospel', for Tyndale, is to deliver us from morality. Thus, paradoxically, the 'puritan' of modern imagination -- the cold, gloomy heart, doing as duty what happier and richer souls do without thinking of it -- is precisely the enemy which historical Protestantism arose and smote. What really matters is not to obey moral rules but to be a creature of a certain kind."


Christian (dis)unity before the world

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." Jesus, in John 17:20

From US News, Nov 26, 2007, pg 48.

The church of the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem is the spot many believe Jesus was crucified.

"Today it is divvied up into territories and ritual duties by six resident Christian groups: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox, (Egyptian) Coptic Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox. Their places are precisely delineated under rules that were set down in 1852 by Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Majid, who tired of sending his troops to break up sectarian fights over control and practices. 'The sultan was sending troops in here all the time, so he finally said, 'You're going to do this and you're going to do that,'' explains [a Franciscan monk]....

"The keys to the church are held by Muslims, as they have been since the year 638, when Caliph Omar, then the city's ruler, appointed the local Nusseibeh family as doorkeepers... Since his father died 25 years ago, Wajeeh Nusseibeh has been faithfully unlocking the church at 4 a.m. and locking it at 8 p.m....

"He doesn't actually have custody of the keys. That duty, or privilege, was granted in 1192 by the conqueror Saladin to the local Joudeh family. And since then, a Joudeh has been bringin a Nusseibeh the keys each morning and evening."

The Jewish police also need to be present, because an altercation could go international, and Israel would be blamed. The article recounts a 2004 fight between Franciscans and Greek Orthodox that left bloody noses behind, and a 2002 incident where "scores of police were required to break up the resulting brawl."

Amazing how one of Christianity's most holy sites must be mediated by one outside the Church, when Jesus is our one mediator. What a sad witness.


Theology wonk-ism

Lloyd-Jones, Preachers and Preaching, pp. 178-179

"This is really dangerous, and the way to counteract it is to prescribe balanced reading for yourself. What I mean is this. Read theology, as I say, but always balance it, not only with Church history but with biographies and the more devotional type of reading. Let me explain why this is so important. Your are preparing yourself, remember, and the danger for the intellectual type of man, if he is only reading theology or philosophy, is to become puffed up. He persuades himself that he has a perfect system; there is no problem, there is no difficulty."


A Defense of Advent/Christmas

In the Christian conservative circles I like to hang around in, there are some who look askance upon Christmas. Isn't it pagan in origin? The world has taken it with Santa and greedy kids grubbing for presents, haven't they?

Well, no. Check this out for a good response. Excerpt below.

"A certain man once thought it good to pour used dishwater into the wine set aside for a feast. The master of the feast saw this and threw out the wine. He was then accused of ruining the feast. Much has been made of the Puritan opposition to Christmas, but more than a little of the problem was caused by how Christmas used to be celebrated.... One of the central reasons Puritans were opposed to it was because of all the immorality that was going on in the name of Jesus."

And he isn't just talking today's commercialization. Think more like Mardi Gras. Did you know it is actually a religious run-up to Lent? That is the corruption the Puritans were dealing with...

On Iraq

From "Getting the Job Done," by Richard Lowry, in National Review, pg 38, Nov 5, 2007.

"The Iraq War has wars within wars. One Army intelligence officer identifies six different ones: the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict; the fight against al-Qaeda; the Shiite vs. Shiite struggle; the challenge of crime; Iran's effort to destabilize the country; and the Sunni insurgency.. each of these has its own layers.... Every area has its own dynamic and its own players, whom our military has to know and manage....

"To sit in on briefings with American colonels about their areas of operation is to get a window on an incredibly complicated world. They have to run local governments, train Iraqi forces, manage relations with Baghdad, revitalize local economies, and engage in graduate-level anthropology - all while fighting a war. These must be the most competent people on Earth. You are awestruck by how much they have been able to accomplish, at the same time you want to hold your head in your hands at the magnitude and complexity of the tasks they still have ahead of them.

"One... officer explains counterinsurgency and winning the trust of a local population in a metaphor that, however apt, elicits guffaws from his comrades:
'It's like Pilates - it's all about time spent under pressure.' What our troops most need from us is something within our power to grant - more time."


Seeker-Sensitive Model "a Bust"

I subscribe to HB London's "The Pastor's Weekly Briefing." He is a staffer with Focus on the Family, a pastor to pastors. I've been thinking of unsubscribing for a while, as most of it is stats on the George Barna - Willow Creek model.

But then this showed up.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

I hadn't seen any news on this myself, heard a rumbling somewhere, but London nails it:

"Well, it seems everyone is talking about Pastor Bill Hybels' statements concerning the ministry of Willow Creek over the past 30 years. At least, I have seen his words in print on a lot of Web sites and from the pages of a new book, REVEAL.

The report from the book "reveals" that what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers, yes, but not disciples.... "If you simply want a crowd, the 'seeker sensitive' model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it's a bust."

It would appear that Hybels and others are just growing weary of programs, promotion and platform presence. Of the 11,000 people who responded to the REVEAL survey, 26 percent of them said they were either "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with their spiritual growth. I would think most of us would be happy to see 75 percent of our congregation enjoying spiritual growth — but I believe what it is saying is that the mature believers are not seeing progress in their own journies. That is serious.

As I read various reports, I could not help but think of the thousands of pastors who did not buy into the "seeker sensitive" strategy who lost members and even their own ministry because they were out of touch. Teaching the fundamentals of faith was not enough.

Or — the thousands who bought hundreds of dollars worth of "Willow" material, now to see it in question. Or — the pastors who restructured their total operation to fit the Willow model only to see it collapse around them. But there are thousands of others of our colleagues who, with God's help, made it work. What was the finished product? I guess we will see.

Pastor Hybels' conclusion is, "We should have gotten people, taught people how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own." What a concept. I think I can see a new paradigm on the horizon."

What is a Family Integrated Church?

Distinctives of a Family Integrated Church (FIC)
By Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr.

Family Integrated Churches come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. There are FICs in virtually every denominational and theological tradition, and in most sections of the country. While no two FICs are exactly alike, they do have certain distinctives in common

Families Worship Together
If you’ve ever walked into a FIC during a worship service, perhaps the first thing that struck you was the fact that there were so many babies and small children in the service. We have grown accustomed to the presence of children in the service, and the children grow accustomed to being a part of the worship experience. No one will stop you at the door if you try to enter our service with your toddler.

No Systematic Age Segregation
One of the biggest distinctions of a FIC is the absence of age-graded ministries. We do not have segregated youth ministry, or children’s ministry. First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model. The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children... parents. Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode. Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. Finally, these ministries have failed. We are losing 75-88% of Evangelical teens by the end of their freshman year in college. And as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.”

Evangelism/Discipleship Through Homes
We teach parents to evangelize and disciple their children and their neighbors. We emphasize the ministry of hospitality, family worship, catechism, and family discipleship. Thus, instead of placing the burden on paid professionals to “do the work of the ministry,” we equip the saints to do it.

Education as a Key Component of Discipleship
Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Whoever educates a child is discipling that child. We work hard to help parents see the importance of Christian education, and to help them make biblical choices as it relates to this part of their children’s discipleship.

Poem of the Day

Two Sayings
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Two sayings of the Holy Scriptures beat
Like pulses in the Church's brow and breast;
And by them we find rest in our unrest
And, heart deep in salt-tears, do yet entreat
God's fellowship as if on heavenly seat.
The first is Jesus Wept, - whereon is prest
Full many a sobbing face that drops its best
And sweetest waters on the record sweet:
And one is where the Christ, denied and scorned
Looked Upon Peter. Oh, to render plain
By help of having loved a little and mourned,
That look of sovran love and sovran pain
Which He, who could not sin yet suffered, turned
On him who could reject but not sustain!


Calvin on reading the Bible scientifically

“Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God. . . . [S]ince the Spirit of God here opens a common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose those subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer inquires respecting the actual dimensions of the stars, he will find the moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his discourse to common usage. For since the Lord stretches forth, as it were, his hand to us in causing us to enjoy the brightness of the sun and moon, how great would be our ingratitude were we to close our eyes against our own experience? There is therefore no reason why janglers should deride the unskillfulness of Moses in making the moon the second luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes things which lie open before our eyes.”

Commentary on Genesis 1:16


I haven't read the book - heard an interview with the author.

I like the principles of Maken's book (gift of celibacy applied too broadly today, e.g.). Some singles may need a fire under them to learn and take the steps they can toward marriage. But these things can come across too rigidly. At least in the interview I heard, there was an undue pressure on singles and sometimes outright maligning of them ("what's wrong with you that you aren't married yet?").

The biggest problem is for singles who want to be married but find it just not happening yet logistically, or no opportunities, etc. Young men do need to learn to "take a wife," but this doesn't mean it is like getting bread from the grocery store. What if no one wants to marry them? Fathers of potential mates find their maturity adequate but not up to their standards, they have personality quirks that obscure their maturity, etc. Singles aren't the only ones responsible to see themselves married. This takes a concerted effort by the family of God.

267 Emails

I took a complete email fast during vacation last week, and it was great!
Now if I could just do that every 7 days.
Meanwhile, I'll be wading through the remains for a few days.


Vacation reading

A friend recommended this a few weeks ago, and I providentially found it laying around at our vacation spot, so off I go...


Explaining Baptism

There is much confusion regarding baptism, since it is often assumed there could only be 2 ways to look at it. Either baptism saves you and makes you holy, makes you a Christian in the Roman Catholic sense of regenerating you automatically, or it is just a way to act out your profession of faith. As Reformed believers we say there is a 3rd way.

When you and your fiancé decide to get married, your legal status doesn’t change right away, but your relationship certainly does. But when do we celebrate our anniversaries? On the day we decided to get married? No, on the day our new covenant relationship was solemnized before God and witnesses. It is the same here. We do not deny that David, who will be baptized soon, that David’s relationship with the Lord has been established for some time. But today, here, that covenant relationship is solemnized before God and witnesses.

What would you think of a society that had no public marriages, b/c they didn’t want to make too much of outward forms and ceremonies? It is the same with baptism. We want to celebrate, endorse, approve, rejoice in David’s relationship with the Lord, and we want to do it the way Christ told us to – go and make disciples, baptizing them.

When the minister at a wedding pronounces the couple man and wife, has he created a relationship where there was none before? No. The prior relationship led to taking public vows at a specific ceremony, which added a legal and physical dimension to the relationship that wasn’t there before. In the same way, baptism adds further dimensions, obligations and blessings, to the relationship we have with the Lord.
Sprinkling some water on David’s head this morning may not look like much, but our weapons are not of this world. We trust the Spirit to fight for David, as He marks David as belonging to Jesus, in the covenant of grace mediated by Jesus His Savior. This is something the Spirit of Christ does – baptism is not mainly our act, but God’s. Imagine heaven torn open at this moment, and the Lord himself coming down, tearing off this roof, taking the bowl from Mr Doskey, hearing David cry out, “My Lord and my God!”, and then baptizing him. Now, the fact that I am not Jesus shouldn’t dull that reality, b/c I truly represent Christ as I baptize David, in spite of my own sin. We need representation. Jesus represents us to the Father, and we are justified. Preaching re-presents the Gospel to us. Baptism represents to us our cleanliness in Christ. The Supper represents Christ’s death for us. We need these things, and they are Christ’s gifts to us. The gift of God for the people of God.

Communion prayer - 11/4/07

Adapted from one of John Calvin's, in honor of Reformation Day:

Heavenly Father, by Your goodness You invite us now to receive these holy signs of our peace and reconciliation with You. Your Son Jesus, who died for us, calls to Himself all those who labor and are heavy laden, You will surely not reject Your servants who beg Your grace and seek salvation and life in the death of Jeuss Christ. Now therefore lift our hearts to You; give us Your Holy Spirit. Grant us grace to approach this table with humble repentance and a thirsty soul that desires Your grace. Strengthen our faith so that, in receiving by hand these visible signs, we may receive by faith the broken body of Jesus Christ and His blood, shed for us as the nourishment of eternal life.

Communion exhortation - 11/4/07

We are soldiers who perform a weekly drill together, as one platoon in the division of the Lord’s army. But this is a strangely fitted regiment. We carry songbooks and bibles, bread and wine, instead of ammunition. We are a choir who sing God’s praise. We boast in our weakness, not our capabilities. We pray for our enemies and love them and serve them.

God has set things up this way so that faith is required of His Church on earth. We have to believe that fighting this way is effective, b/c there are certainly times when we can’t SEE that fact. We have to believe our General’s methods are best for victory. He just walked in to their camp, laid down His sword, let them arrest and execute Him. But God’s love and covenant promises are stronger than death. Once we die with our General, we rise with Him, too. As long as we abide in the vine, we are more than conquerors. We are kings and priests, sitting with our father Abraham at the table of Christ’s Kingdom, not worthy to be here, but made partakers nonetheless – by grace, through faith, b/c of Christ, for God’s glory.


Beam Me Up Scotty, and don't forget the crochet hooks this time!

Hyperbolic space - the concept that space grows outward exponentially, so that you could draw an infinite number of lines which would NEVER touch because space is continually growing. OK, now crochet that.

Knitters and crocheters have long been involved in the world of science and mathematics: Moebius loop scarves, fibonacci sequence striped sweaters, and Norah Gauhn's entire published profile is steeped with similar geeky stuff. The new generation of stitchers has taken this way beyond Grandma's doilies.

Twin sisters have developed a method to crochet a model of hyperbolic space, and are using that to show - in yarn! - what a coral reef ecosystem is like.

Check out this article from the Chicago Reader for all the great details and gorgeous photos!


Precarious Position of Preacher

"Every preacher knows the insidious temptation to vainglory to which the pulpit exposes him. We stand there in a prominent position, lifted above the congregation, the focus of their gaze and the object of their attention. It is a perilous position indeed" (John Stott, The Preacher's Portrait, p.77).

Communion exhortation - 9/30/07

There comes a time in every camping experience when it feels good to be packing up for home. The shower, the mattress, the conveniences await. Here you have that foretaste. We groan in this earthly tent, but the Spirit is our guarantee that better things are coming. And the Spirit works through this sacrament, making the future a present reality, as we are joined with Christ and experience union with Him. What did Jesus tell His disciples as they held and drank the wine? I will not drink it again until I am with you in my Father’s kingdom. For the Jew, the feast booths looked backward to the wilderness wandering. The feast reminds us of our present and future hope for the heavenly city that Abraham hoped for – something better than what we have now. Abraham lived in tents all his life. The only piece of land he owned was his wife’s tomb. But when Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, Abraham had a premature feast to celebrate God’s promises of inheriting the land for his children. When Jacob returns to the land from his exile with Laban, he built booths, and bought some land. The promise was coming true, even with the unease of living next to his brother Esau. This table is a premature feast. Jesus has promised that the meek will inherit the whole earth. We are called to celebrate our salvation before it is fully realized. The bread from heaven is Jesus Himself, His body broken for you. The wine is the richer glory of the New Covenant. Jesus, the living water, turned water into wine, blessing us as He shed His blood to cover our sins.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the people of God.

Communion exhortation - 10/7/07

You have before you, bread and wine. It took some work for these to get here. Not only did someone have to buy the bread and wine and set it out, but before that, there is a process and effort that goes into making bread. Making wine is even more complex, and at every table that is set, we always seek to thank God for His provision, to thank those who prepare it as well.

Now, Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in. God’s love motivated Him to a process and some effort in our direction. He sent His Son to us to keep covenant for us. The Living Word truly taught us the Word. He agonized in the Garden. He was despised and rejected by men. He died as an acceptable sacrifice to pay for our sin. Love is active. It comes, it works, it is faithful, love sacrifices, love lays down itself for one’s friend. And you are His friends, as you come to Him in faith, trusting Him to take on Himself your sins; trusting Him to give to you His righteousness. He feeds your soul with His Body, strengthening You. He shows your union with Him here, assuring you of His intent to bless you in Christ.

Word, Water, Bread, Wine. The gifts of God, for the people of God.

Opening prayer - 10/7/07

Holy God, you have created us in Your 3-person image, and we worship You in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You are our Father and we are Your children. Your Son is our Savior, and we are Your redeemed people. Your Spirit is our comforter and teacher, and we are baptized and filled with Your Spirit to be Your purified people. We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the Trinity. May our response to Your Word and Sacrament today glorify You and conform us more to the likeness of Jesus.