"It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything."

- G.K. Chesterton
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From internetmonk.com
Sundays with Michael Spencer: July 5, 2015

Still Life with French Novels and a Rose, van Gogh

Still Life with French Novels and a Rose, van Gogh

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

• 1 Corinthians 1:18-19

• • •

Every so often, someone will say something to me that implies I’m smart.

It might be mildly critical, as in “Spencer thinks he’s really smart. Look at those big words he uses.” Or “You know, if you are so smart, then you should…..” Fill in the blank with agenda of the speaker. I have people try to flatter me. “You’re a very smart person. How did you learn so much?” And so on.

I’ve told myself I’m smart, or at least smart-er than someone else, on more than a few occasions. For example, despite their training and expertise, major league umpires are almost always wrong in comparison to my observation of the same third strike pitch.

Actually, when it comes to claims of intelligence, I’m quite a skeptic. I’ve had professors that were world class and couldn’t stick to a simple syllabus or balance a checkbook. I’ve been around smart people who didn’t know how to bathe, comb their hair or change their shirt.

Intelligence doesn’t follow predictable paths. My dad had an 8th grade education and was one of the smartest people I ever knew, but he didn’t have the usual tools to express his intelligence. I have lots of students who are brilliant, but they don’t care about school or the subjects being taught. Where their interest lies, they are smart. When they are bored, they appear “slow.”

It makes a lot of sense to be modest in claims of intelligence. History is full of examples of science made foolish and fools proven wise. Without questioning the value of intelligence and human wisdom, we can readily admit its limitations, especially in our own cases. In other words, the longer you live, the more examples of should have accumulated of the fragile nature of anyone’s claims to be truly wise, starting with yourself.

I love the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul says God is out to destroy the “wisdom of the wise.” If that’s not enough to make you think twice about being told you are “smart,” I’m not sure what it would take. Over and over again, scripture says that intelligence as an autonomous foundation isn’t going to get to the real truth. No, scripture has the audacity to say that God is revealing to relative dummies what the world’s wise men won’t ever know.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-27)

Ouch.

Of course, the critics of religion immediately take this sort of post as evidence of the evil of glorifying ignorance. It’s no such thing, of course. I’ll admit that religionists of all types have a mixed record on the subject of the benefits of knowledge, but then it might be the case that someone needs to notice the exponential correlation between how smart we are and what terrible things we do to one another.

By all means, learn all there is to know. Have at it. God gave you the intellect, the curiosity, the senses and the world around you. Read. Study. Research. Think. Experiment. The accumulation of knowledge is part of our human business, dominion and stewardship.

The problem comes when we don’t see our knowledge in relationship to God. If you want to be stupid, the Bible says, then assume that God has become the object of your intellectual abilities and will be cataloged, analyzed and explained by the smart guys. They’ll do their thing, and God will do his.

The Bible is full of experts whom God is refitting with humbled viewpoints. Be they Pharisees, philosophers or realists with no silly thoughts of religion, God is regularly finding ways to shurt them up and turn their conclusions into dust.

Here’s a favorite:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12: 16-20)

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Still Life: Vase with Oleanders and Books, van Gogh

I don’t think God minded at all that this fellow knew a lot about farms, money and buildings. I really don’t. But his announcement that God wasn’t in the picture earned him the name “fool.” In other words, the writer of Ecclesiastes was right to warn us that we fail to remember God at our own peril. Disallowing God from any of our calculations isn’t smart.

The conviction of my own intelligence has a predictable effect: I draw the circle of possible knowledge ever smaller. In other words, what I know for certain is certain because that’s all there is to know.

The skeptic declares there is no God, but hasn’t looked everywhere, perceived everything, received every possible piece of information, considered every possible option. Oh…..she has? Well, excuse me. I’ll just sit down here and be amazed.

The knowledge of God a Christian ought to claim should be the most humble kind of knowledge. Arrogance has no place in the faith of anyone who has received everything as a gift. Our “certainties” are a matter of the assurances of faith. We doubt ourselves. We admit our ignorance. And as Augustine said, we believe in order that we may understand.

So if any of us are actually intelligent, we can demonstrate it by humbling our minds before whatever truth we venerate– the Trinitarian God in my case– and admit that whatever light we have is only a glimmer of the light we can’t see. If the true light shines within us, it won’t register on any of the academic registers. It will be the reflection of the deepest, simplest, most beautiful truths that come to us as a gift, and its greatest evidence will be love, not intelligence.

In the second half of life, I intend to be less impressed with anyone’s intelligence, and more humbled by what I see in the lives of people who really do provide examples of a life well lived.

From Brandywine Books
The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Charge!

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Or is it something else?

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a wonderfully catchy tune that many have sung on the Fourth and even in church, because it talks about God’s truth marching forward, right? Just like “Onward Christian Soldiers,” isn’t it?

The writer, Julia Ward Howe, was a Unitarian, poet, and active supporter of abolition, women’s rights, prison reform, and education. Her public support of these issues was opposed by her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, and put a strain on their marriage for years. He wanted her to keep her work domestic. When she published a book of poetry anonymously (but discovered a short time afterward), Samuel felt betrayed.

In November 1861, Samuel and Julia were visiting Union encampments close to Washington, D.C. as part of a presidential commission. Some of the men began singing, and one of their songs was “John Brown’s Body,” a song in praise of the violent abolitionist John Brown.

“John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave
But his soul goes marching on.

“He’s gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.”

Reverend James Freeman Clarke was touring with the Howes and remarked that while the tune was great, the lyric could be stronger. He suggested Julia write new words to it, and she replied that she had had a similar idea.

She said the words came to her the next morning as if her mind had worked them out overnight. She listened to her own imagination until she had organized the whole song and then quickly scribbled them down on a scrap of paper next to the bed.

Is the glory spoken of in this hymn the glory of Christ or is it the glory of an idea for which Christ is a metaphor? William Smith says it’s the latter.

Mrs. Howe’s Christ is not the Christ of the Bible. If, “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,/With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me,” it was not “the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father,” of “God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side,” and who “became flesh” (John 1:14, 18) that Mrs. Howe saw. It was only the glory of human goodness. If “he died to make men holy” it was to make them holy by the power of sacrificial example that would motivate them to “die to make men free.” It was not to make them holy by the efficacy of an atoning sacrifice which frees from sin’s guilt and power.

Smith says Julia was advocating an early liberation theology, that sin is socially constructed and salvation is to be won through overcoming civil systems.

Consider this little-used verse of her hymn: “I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished tows of steel;/ ‘As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;/Let the Hero, born to woman, crush the serpent with his heel,/Since God is marching on.'”

This isn’t the humble advocacy of God’s truth, but the proud proclamation that God agrees with us, that the Union Army is God’s army, and America’s cause is God’s cause.–a bit different than “God Bless America.”

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 4, 2015

“What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?” ~John Ruskin

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings, July 4, 2015

Hello, imonks, and welcome to freedom! Ready to Ramble?

Feeling patriotic yet?

Feeling patriotic yet?

Are you having Watermelon at your cookout this weekend? Need some pointers on how to cut that baby up? Here ya go:

Well, this is classy. The Milwaukee Art Museum will display a portrait of Pope Benedict  XVI . . . made of condoms. The museum admitted it was trying to gain some free publicity with the side benefit of pissing off Catholics. Just kidding, of course: they claim it “will ignite a conversation about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the role art plays in public discussions.” Oh. Yes. I’m sure it will.

Of course, they completely miss the irony. The New York Times this spring refused to run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The reason, they say, is that the do not want to offend religious people. The collective snort you heard then was from every honest reader of the Grey Lady. But even then non-snorters are snorting now. For the Times had absolutely zero problem with publishing the condom pope portrait.

Speaking of the Times, they published a long hit piece against Marco Rubio last month, in which they talked about his “luxury speedboat” and implied his house was lavish. Other journalists looked into this. Below is a picture of his “luxury speedboat”. Below that is a comparison of Rubio’s house (on the left) with Hillary Clinton’s. _____boat

Maybe the Times should steal the "fair and balanced" slogan from Fox

Maybe the Times should steal the “fair and balanced” slogan from Fox

Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis web site is not a fan of the TV miniseries A. D., even though it’s about the Bible. “Theologically and historically, the writers of this show have been sloppy at best and calculatingly agenda-driven at the expense of Scripture at worst.” Man, this is like Madonna accusing Lady Gaga of being self-promoting and pretentious.

Gif of the week: “Must resist urge to kill…” must resist

The U.S. election cycle is in full swing. Chris Christie announced he is running this week. And Bernie Sanders is picking up steam in New Hampshire, though he still trails Hillary Clinton 59 percent to 15 percent nationally, and trails her even worse in fund-raising.

163477_600

And Donald Trump was in the news this week for some stupid and insensitive remarks. But you knew that already, didn’t you? In fact, we may have to make this a weekly feature: “Crazy stuff the Donald said this week”. Several companies are refusing to do business with him after his remarks about Mexican immigrants: “They are not our friend, believe me…They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime, and they’re rapists.” In defending these remarks in an interview this week, he claimed he was supported by an article in Fusion. The interviewer pointed out the article was actually about female immigrants being raped on the journey from Central America to the United States. Trump’s response: “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?”

In related news, I found this helpful chart: crime_f1

Odd headline of the weekBeach closed off after huge hole opens up shooting SNAILS into the sky ‘like a geyser’.

Did you know that a study published in 2000 found that people with light-colored eyes “consumed significantly more alcohol” than their dark-eyed peers? Now a new study from the Univesity of Vermont finds that people with light-colored eyes — which researchers defined as blue, green, gray, or with brown in the center — may have a greater chance of becoming dependent on alcohol. People with blue eyes had the highest rates of alcohol dependence. Scientists controlled for other variables that could influence the result, such as age, sex and genetic ancestry.

On a related note, I came across this graphic this week. Apparently if you have blue eyes and live in Wisconson, you’re going to be pretty smashed this holiday.

Why is Utah so white?

Utah: Always as white as it gets

July 1 was international joke day [also known as Donald Trump’s Birthday]. In honor of this, a British magazine published the most popular jokes from around the world. Some of them definitely prove the adage that humor is cultural. But others were great. My favorite was from Ireland:

A doctor says to his patient, “I have bad news and worse news”.

“Oh dear, what’s the bad news?”

“You only have 24 hours to live.”

“That’s terrible,” said the patient. “How can the news possibly be worse?”.

The doctor replies: “I’ve been trying to contact you since yesterday.”

George Takei is a liberal celebrity who attaches his name to Facebook posts that other people write for him. You may remember him as Mr. Sulu. After the supreme court decision affirming SSM last week, Takei called Clarence Thomas, “a clown in blackface.” He later apologized after taking heat for the racist remark.

America in one picture: 

America in one picture

Bubba Watson is a great golfer and a good ol’ southern boy from central casting. I mean . . . he’s named “Bubba.” He even owns a 1969 Charger that was featured in The Dukes of Hazzard, known as the General Lee. That’s why it raised some eyebrows when he said this week he would paint over the Confederate flag on the roof of his General Lee. This, of course, is part of the wave of disgust at that flag following the shooting in Charleston. Defenders of the flag say it represents “heritage, not hate.” This was rather brilliantly deconstructed by Ta-Nehishi Coates in the Atlantic. To me the issue is clear: That flag should never be flown over any public building in this country. Your thoughts?

0623NateBeeler_CagleH

Wanna see a squirrel dive bomb the dugout from 40 feet up at a Phillies game? Of course you do:

An Australian woman spent four days in a hospital after the blood supply to her legs was cut off and caused her to collapse. She had spent the day house-cleaning, and as she walked  through a park later that night “her feet became increasingly weak to the point where she fell.” She eventually managed to crawl to the side of the road and hailed a taxi to the hospital. The cause of all this?….Skinny jeans.

My skinny jeans are just my Wrangler relaxed-fit jeans after a heavy meal.

Please take five minutes to watch this video. The footage is spectacular. Be sure to make it full-screen.

Ed Young’s Mega-church is hosting some sort of Patriotic event this weekend. Guest of honor: Glenn Beck. When the church was asked why it was promoting a Mormon talking head, an official spokesman gave this statement: “Glenn Beck is a man who is undoubtedly an American patriot, loves this country, and has shown his love for God in many ways. His knowledge of our history and his understanding of our nation is unmatched, and we’re excited to have him here.” Yes, who could argue with that assessment, especially after reading his wisdom and love for God in quotes like these:

I didn’t think I could hate victims faster than the 9/11 victims… And when I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up!’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining. And we did our best for them.

The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be ‘What the hell you mean we’re out of missiles?”

You know those fat people who sit in their couch — and I mean really fat. I mean, not like me. I mean the people who, like — their skin grows into the couch. And then, you know, they call the fire department and they cut them out of the wall, and then they have to bring in a truck, and then they take them to the hospital. I say let them die.

I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out — is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus — band — Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, “Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,” and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, “Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.” And you know, well, I’m not sure.

Why, the spokesman was right! This guy sounds just like Saint Paul, doesn’t he? Picture3

Did you know you may be able to drive from New York to London? At least,  if the head of Russian Railways has his way. He is pushing for a major roadway to be constructed alongside the existing Trans-Siberian Railway, along with a tunnel under the Bering Strait for cars, trains and pipelines. “This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project,” the Siberian Times quoted Vladimir Yakunin. “The project should be turned into a world ‘future zone,’ and it must be based on leading, not catching, technologies.” If built, it would link, for the first time, five continents. So, how long would a road-trip from New York to London take? 12,910 miles, or around 26,000 miles round-trip. Better bring some audio books.

"Are we there, yet?"

“Are we there, yet?”

Finally, let’s end with some “music”. I think you will see why I use the scare quotes. For I give you this morning, in honor of the fourth of July, William Shatner’s AMAZING rendition of Rocket Man. Enjoy.

From Brandywine Books
How Dante Saved Dreher from Depression


Last year, we wrote about Rod Dreher’s book, How Dante Can Save Your Life,, noting that following your heart will kill you dead and sin is a damaged form of love.

Chris Fabry interviewed Rod about his experience going through depression, attempting to reconcile with his family, and learning more from Dante than his counselor. If you haven’t read his book already, this will give you insight into what you’ll find there.

From Semicolon
Biographies for the Fourth of July

I have always enjoyed the Childhood of Famous Americans series of biographies of great Americans. These stories are somewhat fictionalized and usually focus on the childhood and young adult years of the well known person who is being written about. I found a few of these (ex-library copies) at a recent book sale:

Tom Jefferson, Boy in Colonial Days by Helen Albee Monsell. Tom’s father tells him, “Just to be strong is not enough. You must also have a trained mind in your strong body.”
Stephen Foster, Boy Minstrel by Helen Boyd Higgins. Did you know that Stephen Foster was born on the Fourth of July?
Walter Reed, Boy Who Wanted to Know by Helen Boyd Higgins. Walter Reed is inspired by the long illness and slow recovery of a friend to become a doctor and help others who have yellow fever and other diseases.
Woodrow Wilson, Boy President by Helen Albee Monsell. There’s an encouraging story in this book about young Tommy Wilson, age nine, struggling to learn to read.
Noah Webster, Boy of Words by Helen Boyd Higgins. “The day Noah was accepted at Yale College, the Websters were the proudest family in the whole of Connecticut.”
Nathan Hale, Puritan Boy by Augusta Stevenson. Nathan Hale was one of seven boys in the Hale family with only one sister, Elizabeth.

Interesting facts and stories like these are embedded in a narrative that engages young readers and inspires them to emulate the heroes’ good qualities while also reading about the youthful mischief and mistakes that even heroes can make.

I already had several of these biographies in my home library:
Lucretia Mott, Girl of Old Nantucket By Constance Burnett.
Thomas Edison: Young Inventor by Sue Gutheridge
Robert Fulton: Boy Craftsman by Marguerite Henry.
Oliver Hazard Perry, Boy of the Sea by Laura Long.
Jim Thorpe, Olympic Champion by Guernsey Van Riper.
Davy Crockett, Young Rifleman by Aileen Wells Parks.
Benjamin Franklin, Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson.
George Washington, Young Leader by Augusta Stevenson.
Molly Pitcher, Young Patriot by Augusta Stevenson.
Myles Standish, Adventurous Boy by Augusta Stevenson.
Will Rogers, Young Cowboy by Guernsey Van Riper.
Martha Washington, America’s First Lady by Jean Brown Wagoner.
Betsy Ross, Designer of our Flag by Ann Weil.
Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot by Ellen Wilson.

I’ve read most of these, and I find them delightful. The reading level and the content are appropriate for ages seven through eleven. If a child prefers books about “real people”, these stories would be great beginning chapter books to steer them towards.

A lot of these old biographical stories have been weeded out of the public libraries, but you can still find some of them in paperback reprint editions at the bookstore or in the old hardcover editions at library book sales. I think they stand the test of time for a young reader’s introduction to historical heroes. Even as an adult, I can read them with enjoyment, and they make me curious to read more about the subject of the biography. What more can one ask from a junior biography?

From Brandywine Books
The Fellowship of the Inklings

The Eagle and Child

“In general, the all-male group shared a longing for that half-imaginary time before man’s alienation from God, nature and self, the time before the chaos and materialism of the post-industrial era had displaced the elegantly organized cosmos of the Middle Ages. In their ­various ways, each hoped to spearhead a rehabilitation, a re-enchantment of our fallen world.” Michael Dirda reflects on The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski. He says the book focuses largely on the men’s religious lives and thoughts.

The Fellowship looks to be a great, detailed introduction to Barfield and Williams, two men close to Lewis and Tolkien but unfamiliar to most of their fans.

From home is behind, the world ahead
Renovation of the Heart Week 5 Recap

The lesson was on chapter 5 of Renovation of the Heart, which, honestly, I didn't read. (I was hoping to be really good with the readings and keep up every week but I'm still on chapter 2... but that's okay.) The chapter is called Spiritual Change: The Reliable Pattern. The lovely Marilyn Maddox spoke. She shared her story which intertwined nicely with what she wanted to teach in the lesson. She spoke about running from God in her earlier years and how he continually pursued her. It was when she had to face her beliefs and began to question her faith that she began to turn to God. She began to let God work in her and to go to scripture to figure out what it said about God and about her beliefs and that changed her. (I hope I didn't completely butcher your story, Marilyn.)

The lesson was about obedience and working out your salvation to really know what it is you say you believe. The book gives an acronym VIM which stands for Vision, Intention, Means. To undergo spiritual change, we must have a vision that aligns with God's vision. His will and our will are one. And that does not mean that our will is the way, but it is God's will that will prevail. (How many times can I say "will" in one sentence?) That, honestly, is the hardest part for me. Which, when I think about it, I will say that for each part. Marilyn, and the book, talked a lot about how if we don't work at it, we won't get change. It is an active decision on our part to begin the change. It is through the grace of God and he does the changing, but we daily have to work out our salvation. And part of that is reading the word and figuring out what the heck it is that we say we are aligning ourselves with. That is the Intention part of VIM. The Means is how God changes us. And how we go about working out our salvation.

I've never been good at obedience. I like to think I have a delayed obedience to the Lord. I usually (sometimes) do what God asks me to do but it may take a couple days or couple of months. So any lesson on obedience usually makes me slightly uncomfortable. (Conviction is hard). But, even though we have to have the mindset of "duty to delight", it' not always about willing your way into it. It's about working out your salvation and getting in the word and really getting to know the God we confess to follow and know the things we believe. And through that-- my favorite phase-- "beholding is becoming". We behold the Lord and his word and we become more like him- if only slightly -day by day. And that is encouraging. I think it's important to realize that we do have to work. We do have to do something with our faith. And I fully believe that if I am 1% faithful, God will be 99% faithful. He will close the distance because he is THAT good. Way too good for me. I don't deserve the grace he has bestowed upon me. So I just have to bring the very little I offer and let him take that tiny thing and make it a kingdom. I won't begin to try to explain why he chooses to do this or why he chose to walk with us and give us his spirit and work in us for transformation but He did. And that is awesome. If I can get this first part right, then I will start to see the obedience be slightly easier. And I will want to because I will be so in love with Jesus and I will know fully that his ways are best and he is a safe hiding place. I just wish I wasn't so fickle.

Marilyn mentioned that when she counsels she looks for biblical thinking and how there is a lot of unbiblical thinking in people. That is why she really encouraged us to question whether we really believe what we say we believe. I was talking this morning with some friends that we know the truth in our minds but we don't feel it in our hearts. So we are plagued with doubt, fear, and uncertainty. And it's true. We have to look within and say "do I really believe this?" and, if I don't, why not? Why am I not convinced? And then go to the source. The breath of God. Man, I need to do that more. I am so weak in my mind. I just let it sway back and forth. We need to have a firm foundation (and we do in Christ), but we need weapons to fight off the enemy. I too often run on my own strength or on past seasons of plenty. Honestly, right now I am living as if I don't need to refuel and learn more about Christ. I am living on what I have built in Christ these past 5 years. On a shallow surface that might seem like it would work, but it doesn't. I am swayed. I want to lean on my own opinions. I am fearful. But, starting in his word and letting that be my daily bread will a) give me a firm faith that, when trials come my way, I will know that I know that God will be good and will work it out and b) I will be more willing to lean into his will and obey.

So, get your weights and treadmills and cute workout outfits on and don't sit back. Let's be women who build our muscles to fight off the temptations and trials with a knowledge of Christ and who seek to obey him in all that we do. I hope you didn't hate my awful metaphor.

Thanks,
Beth

From internetmonk.com
Which Way? Religious Conservatism at the Crossroads

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling [Obergefell v. Hodges] which found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage surprised few observers. Whether or not such a right can legitimately be derived from the Constitution, it seems impossible that the court would have voted the way it did had this case been brought before it 20 years ago. In other words, religious conservatives find the decision to be so troubling because it does not come out of the blue, but reflects the radically changing mores of our society. Like the trophy presentation after a sports championship game, it announces and formalizes what has already happened on the field of play. At least on issues of sexual morality within public policy, the religious conservatives have lost.

This column is not about the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Rather, it poses a different question: In light of the defeat over same-sex marriage (which exemplifies defeats in similar areas of social concern), what should religious conservatives do?

One option, of course, is to stand firm and fight back.  Robert P. George writes in First Things:

How shall we respond to a lawless decision in which the Supreme Court by the barest of majorities usurps authority vested by the Constitution in the people and their elected representatives? By letting Abraham Lincoln be our guide. Faced with the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, Lincoln declared the ruling to be illegitimate and vowed that he would treat it as such. He squarely faced Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s claim to judicial supremacy and firmly rejected it. To accept it, he said, would be for the American people “to resign their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Today we are faced with the same challenge. Like the Great Emancipator, we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation. We must, above all, tell the truth: Obergefell v. Hodges is an illegitimate decision.

Another option is to turn our focus inwardly, in order to build the kind of church that can best persevere in a post-Christian culture. Rod Dreher wrote a piece for Time in which he laid out “The Benedict Option”:

It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.

Dreher wrote a little more expansively about what the Benedict Option means in First Things last February:

In our time, the Benedict Option does not offer a formula (at least not yet), but it does call for a radical shift in perspective among Christians, one in which we see ourselves as living in the ruins (though very comfortable ones!) of Christian civilization, and tasked with preserving the living faith through the coming Dark Ages…

Our Benedict Option will express itself within institutions—churches, schools, para-church organizations, and so forth—whose purpose is to keep orthodox Christianity alive in the hearts and minds of believers living as exiles in an ever more hostile culture.

David Brooks responded with another option in the New York Times. He hopes religious conservatives will quit the battlefield of the current culture war, in order to re-group for a different kind of battle.

I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

Rod Dreher responded to Brooks on Wednesday:

I don’t believe my friend David understands the inseparable connection between Christian sexual morality and the familial and social instability David rightly decries. Family and social breakdown is inextricably linked to the abandonment of Christian sexual ideals — specifically, the idea that sexual passion should be limited to expression within the bounds of marriage. Chastity — which is not “no sex,” but rather the right ordering of the God-given sexual instinct — is a Christian virtue. It is not the most important Christian virtue, but it is not one that can be discarded, either…

Christianity, properly understood, takes a more holistic view of the human person. David rightly causes us to think of how few conservative Christians consider the role that economics and economic policy plays in breaking apart families and communities. But liberals, Christian and otherwise, fail to appreciate the extent to which abandoning sexual restraint results in broken families and broken societies. “Different beliefs about the universe lead to different behavior,” Lewis writes. The Sexual Revolution teaches something different about sex, the body, desire, and identity. Christianity opposes it — and Christian chastity cannot be isolated from the overall Christian conception of what the body is and who we are as incarnated eternal beings.

The point is, there is no way for Christians to undertake the task of nurturing stable families, as David correctly wishes for, without making the teaching of Christian chastity part of the mission. This is the one thing the world cannot accept — and in fact, finds a form of madness, indeed of bigotry…

Dreher also quotes Patrick Deneen on why Brook’s suggestion to quit the field of battle will not work:

The origins of the “war” was arguably launched by Roe v. Wade, which was, for the Christian, less about sexual morality than protecting the life of the unborn. It was a human rights battle, not a battle over sexual propriety… But in recent years, from whence has the aggression come? ..Have Christians threatened to wipe out the livelihood of rural pizza makers who didn’t conform to their views, or even launched boycotts against the likes of Apple, etc.? Or, we might even ask, when is the last time someone heard a sermon about sexual morality from the pew?… But what Brooks simply neglects to talk about is that Christians are not going to be allowed to depart from the battlefield. Once the atomic weapon of “bigotry” has been used, you can’t just contain the radiation. Christians will be occupied for years yet to come defending their institutions – not because that’s what they want to do, but because they will be forced to.

So there are at least three choices laid out: The Status Quo Culture War, The Benedict Option, and the Mother Theresa Plan. Obviously these are not entirely exclusive of each other. But where should our emphasis lie? Or is there a fourth (or fifth) option? What are your thoughts?

From Brandywine Books
‘Black,’ and ‘Black is Back,’ by Russell Blake

When I started reading the first book in Russell Blake’s detective series, Black, I was frankly not much impressed. The main character and his situation seemed hackneyed and glib. But I gave it a chance, and soon decided that there’s a whole lot more going on with these books than was initially apparent, and now I’m a fan.

Artemus Black (he tries to avoid his first name) is a low rent PI in the stereotypical shabby Los Angeles office. He has an office assistant, Roxie, a hot goth chick with superior research and hacking skills, who is reliably insolent to him. He also has an obese, rescued “office cat,” who hates him. He’s seeing a psychologist to help him work through his anger issues – anger at his hippie parents who, although stoned most of the time, keep turning their arts and crafts into wildly profitable businesses, and at his ex-wife who, back when he was a rock musician, recorded an album of songs he wrote and then left him to become an international star, taking all the song rights with her. He drives a classic Cadillac El Dorado convertible, and wears 1940s suits and fedoras. He drinks too much and is trying to quit smoking.

The first book is simply called Black, and involves Black being hired by an aging action movie star with a particular hatred for the paparazzi. Now paparazzi are getting murdered wherever the star goes, and suspicion is being directed at him.

The second book, Black is Back, deals with murder in the rap music scene.

What’s best about the Black books is the characters and the dialogue. Black’s arguments with Roxie are masterpieces of emotional manipulation and veiled sexual tension. His dialogues with his cop friend, Stan Colt, are just hilarious guy talk – cross-chat that’s never been done better in print.

There are some surprisingly beautiful descriptive passages. Russell Blake is an excellent writer. Also some moments when Black exhibits some pretty solid moral sense.

Highly recommended. Cautions for violence, language, and adult stuff, but not really very heavy.

From Brandywine Books
How to Speak Middle English

A primer on speaking Middle English with plenty of caveats.
Lectionary, Middle English. England, fifteenth century

From Brandywine Books
Why College Students Avoid Literature Studies

“When I was growing up in the Bronx, the local Jewish deli owner, whose meats smelled vaguely rancid and whose bagels seemed to start out already a day old, attributed his failing business to the vulgarization of Bronx tastes.” Professor Gary Saul Morson says the deli owner’s rationale illustrates the same by many humanities professors. Students and their parents have every right to ask why they should subject themselves to literature courses.

“I speak with students by the dozens,” Morson writes, “and none has ever told me that he or she does not take more literature courses because every moment at school must be devoted to maximizing future income. On the contrary, students respond by describing some literature course they took that left them thinking they had nothing to gain from repeating the experience. And when I hear their descriptions of these classes, I see their point.” (via Prufrock)

From internetmonk.com
Report from the desert (2): The golden hour

image

Photographers and cinematographers love “the golden hour” (sometimes called “the magic hour”). This describes the time of light right after sunrise and right before sunset. During these periods, the sun’s light is more diffuse and softer, bathing the world in a pleasing reddish-golden hue. I took the picture above yesterday at McDowell Mountain Sonoran Desert Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona during the golden hour before sunset, and you can see the effect quite clearly.

In planning for taking pictures, I wanted to make use of the golden hour, especially here in the desert. In this environment the mostly cloudless, sometimes hazy sky casts a harsh bright light over everything during most of the daylight hours, making it difficult to achieve proper contrast and color saturation in one’s photographs. A polarizing filter helps, and one can always adjust pictures when processing them, but no photographer can do as well as what God did when he gave us the golden hour.

The golden hour reminds me that, even in the desert, there are times during the day when nature grants the world respite from the relentless burning sun and the almost colorless landscape its glare creates.

imageAs I was hiking and taking pictures, I found that I eagerly awaited the moment when the sun reached the point in the sky that caused its rays to diffuse and turn the bland desert before me into a portrait of almost luminescent brilliance. And it was worth it. As the sun sank, every plant, rock, and geological feature became transformed into a technicolor wonder. I felt as though I had arrived in Oz. It was every bit as awe-inspiring as the hills of Vermont covered with the fluorescence of maple trees in October. It was like watching van Gogh’s austere early drawings and paintings suddenly burst forth into sunflowers and blossoming trees and parks and wheat fields, exploding with vibrant color and warmth.

It became a devotional moment, or hour, I should say. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. A deep sense of joy filled me. The liturgy had begun and I became caught up in participating in it. It only lasted a short time, and then the sun began to sink below the horizon, now turning the sky into a vast canvas covered with fiery brushstrokes, as though the very color had lifted up from the earth and found a place of rest in the clouds.

As I drove out of the park, darkness was beginning to fall. I glanced over to my left, and there behind one of the peaks, I saw the hint of a huge full moon. I made a quick u-turn, went back to the park entrance, spotted the moon in perfect position over the mountains, and took several pictures. It was like hearing the choir sing an inspiring, peaceful “amen” to the service.

And then I heard the minister speak the words of dismissal: “In the midst of the desert of your life, there is grace in Jesus Christ. In the midst of the harsh realities of hunger and thirst, sin and death, Jesus has come to bring peace, abundance and life. Thanks be to God. Now we are free to go and bring his light to our world. Go in his grace.”

Thank you, Lord, for the golden hours. Enable me to shine that beautiful light on those around me who need to see it.

Desert Moon 2

From Brandywine Books
Racism Fails to See Human Beings as Human

Slaves
Margaret Biser, who has led historical tours at a Southern house and plantation for years. She writes about the questions she received, such as whether the slaves appreciated the good treatment they received or whether being a house slave instead of a field hand was a cushy life.

Why did her guests continue to ask questions ignorant or opposed to the history she presented? Inaccurate education for many. Apathy for some.

“In many other cases, however, justifications of slavery seemed primarily like an attempt by white Americans to avoid feelings of guilt for the past. After all, for many people, beliefs about one’s ancestors reflect one’s beliefs about oneself. We don’t want our ancestors to have done bad things because we don’t want to think of ourselves as being bad people. These slavery apologists were less invested in defending slavery per se than in defending slaveowners, and they weren’t defending slaveowners so much as themselves.”

This is how I understand the KKK began. You could call it a failure of believers to reach poor white members in neighboring small towns with the full gospel, but however you want to think about, people who felt rejected by their community turned their bitterness against blacks, an easy target. And some carry on that legacy today, both directly as members of the Klan and indirectly when they argue that #BlackLivesMatter is not as strong as #AllLivesMatter, missing the point that black lives are the ones still longing for respect.

“Addressing racism,” Biser writes, “isn’t just about correcting erroneous beliefs — it’s about making people see the humanity in others.” But with dehumanization active all around us today, we should wake up to the fact that we won’t learn this lesson without the gospel fully applied. Some of us haven’t learned it even with the gospel.

From Semicolon
Happy Canada Day!

July 1 is Canada Day. Here are some suggestions, mostly fiction, if you’re ready to celebrate with a good book:

Picture Books:

Bannatyne-Cugnet, Jo. A Prairie Alphabet. Illustrated by Yvette Moore.
Carney, Margaret. At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush. Illustrated by Janet Wilson.
Carrier, Roch. The Hockey Sweater. Illustrated by Sheldon Cohen.
Gay, Marie-Louise. Stella, Queen of the Snow. Illus. Groundwood, 2000.
Ellis, Sarah. Next Stop! Illus. by Ruth Ohi. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000.
Harrison, Ted. A Northern Alphabet.
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Winter.
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Summer.
McFarlane, Sheryl. Jessie’s Island. Illustrated by Sheena Lott. Orca Book Publishers, 2005.
Service, Robert. The Cremation of Sam McGee. Illustrated by Ted Harrison.

Children’s Fiction:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, of course and all its sequels. Essential Canadiana.
Our Canadian Girl and Dear Canada series.
Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton.
Semicolon review here.
Hobbs, Will. Far North.
Mowat, Farley. Lost in the Barrens.
Mowat, Farley. Owls in the Family.
Stanbridge, Joanne. The Leftover Kid. Northern Lights, 1997.

YA and Adult Fiction:

Craven, Margaret. I Heard the Owl Call My Name.
Freedman, Benedict and Nancy. Mrs. Mike.
Mitchell, W.O. Who Has Seen the Wind?
Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet.

Nonfiction:
Evangeline and the Acadians by Robert Tallant.
Canadian history series by Thomas Costain. Although I haven’t read this series of books, Costain is one of my favorite authors of narrative nonfiction. There are six books in the series, and the first is called The White and the Gold.

I haven’t read all of the books on this list, but I plan to, whenever I can manage to find time for a Canada Project. Titles in bold print are available from Meriadoc Homeschool Library.

More Canadian books, mostly for kids by Becky at Farm School.

Celebrating Literary Canada at Chasing Ray in 2008.

Any more Canadian book suggestions?

From Semicolon
Question of the Week and Reading Slump

I posted this question on Facebook, but I thought I’d try it here on the blog as well. What is your favorite Bible verse or your “life verse(s)”? Has God given you a verse or passage that is especially meaningful to you? If you comment and tell me, I will mark your verse in my Bible as a reminder to pray for you.

I’ve already enjoyed marking several verses for friends who commented on Facebook. I shaded the verses and wrote the person’s name beside the verse. That way whenever I read that particular verse, I will pray for that person. So far the verses that people have shared are: Jeremiah 29:11, John 1:4-5, Psalm 1, Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 91:4, I Peter 4:10, Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:13, Psalm 121:1-2, Colossians 3:23-24, Job 13:15 (mine) and John 6:68 (mine, too).

As for reading and blogging, I’m in something of a slump. I’ve pushed my way through several books in the last couple of weeks, but nothing has really grabbed me. I have been reading a lot in my Bible: Philippians, Nehemiah, and Numbers. Now that’s an interesting combination.

I have stacks and lists of books that I want to read or plan to read or need to read, but everything feels disconnected and a bit dull. Any suggestions? Have you ever dealt with a reading slump? What did you read or what did you do to reignite your interest in books and reading?

I have been watching the K-drama Heirs. It’s rather soap opera-ish, and I’m not sure it’s doing my reading blahs any good.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: June 27, 2015


“A college – or a church – committed to the supremacy of God in the life of the mind will cultivate many fertile, and a few great, imaginations. And O how the world needs God-besotted minds that can say the great things of God and sing the great things of God and play the great things of God in ways that have never been said or sung or played before.” ~John Piper

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

If you signal enough about how much you’re not like those awful fundamentalists and overly pious knuckleheads, surely the militant secularists will spare you.

Bake two cakes! They surely won’t up the ante until you break.

From Semicolon
Finishing Stats for 48-hour Book Challenge

So, I read for a total of 14.5 hours.

I blogged (wrote reviews) for a total of 3 hours. It takes me a long time to write a simple review/reaction to what I read.

I read five books and reviewed four of the five.

I read a total of 1211 pages of children’s and young adult fiction.

My fifth book for the reading challenge was The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I think I have something to say about that book, but right now I can’t remember what I wanted to write.

Anyway, thanks, Mother Reader, for hosting the challenge. It was real. It was fun. Real fun.

Can you tell I’m a little fried right now for some reason? It wasn’t the reading challenge. Life keeps happening while I’m trying to read.

From ALIEN SOIL
The Confederate Stumbling Block


I was born and raised in Paris, Tennessee. Being a native of west Tennessee, I used to heartily embrace the Confederate flag as a symbol of my “southern-ness.” I had a license plate carrying the phrase “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.” I thought it (and I) was pretty clever with that thing in the back of my first pickup truck.

I am extremely grateful to be from the South (capitalized on purpose). It's a deep, deep thing engrained in the DNA of people who were born and raised there. If you’re not from the region, you may not understand it and that’s OK. However, it's a very real pride that can’t be quantified.

The South and its history is not pure and pristine. Neither is America and its history. There is much shame running throughout our entire nation’s past. We have done wretched things to one another. Slavery and its sister, the Civil War, being toward the top of that list. You can get into semantics over where today’s incarnation of the “rebel” flag came from. You can honestly debate state’s rights and all sorts of things. It’s a rabbit hole you may never escape from. The Civil War was fought over the right of one man to own another man as property. Don’t let that get clouded in any other argument over this very dark portion of our nation’s past. Men fought and died for a cause. There was great valor and honor spent and much blood spilled to protect the right to own another human being as property.

The flag and its various Confederate incarnations was — and is — a symbol of this horrifying fact.

In the past, my embrace of the flag carried no connotation of slavery, in my mind. But, when I became convicted by the Holy Spirit of the very real pain and hurt the flag’s prominence caused friends, family, and many Christian brothers and sisters, I could no longer embrace it with a clear conscience.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you should recognize the term “stumbling block.” Plain and simple, that’s what this flag is. It simply is highly offensive to many of our brothers and sisters as well as to many who aren’t followers of Jesus. The life of a Christian is marked by laying down one’s life for others, including preferences, oftentimes. Are my preferences to laud my southern heritage more important to me than people? Surely not. This should not be.

Be aware of your history, your heritage, your roots. In many cases, a healthy amount of encouragement should come from those things. I am encouraged by my family’s history and the work ethic and determination passed down from my Scots-Irish, Southern roots. I am comforted by the “way” things are in the South in regards to everyday life and faith, family, and friends. I’ve spent nearly 15 years above the Mason-Dixon in Indiana and I’ve often joked about being a missionary to a foreign land of Yankees (of the German-Catholic variety).

However, the pain of this symbol of my “homeland” is all too real. As Christians, we should never embrace symbols of oppression and symbols of hate. Just as the swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol, it is now. Just as the Confederate flag may, to you, be a symbol of Southern pride, the pain it carries now is one we should reject.

If we truly believe all men are made in the image of God and life is sacred, followers of Jesus can not embrace the symbols of ownership of our fellow man. We can’t embrace the symbols of a certain skin color being superior to another. We can’t embrace the Confederate flag.

From Semicolon
Some Kind of Magic by Adrian Fogelin

Book #4 for the 48-hour Book Challenge
223 pages, 3 hours

The last summer before high school. Things are changing for Cass, Jemmie, Justin, and Ben, and some of them are ready for a change while others just want to keep things the way they have always been.

The four friends, plus Ben’s almost seven year old little brother Cody, discover an old hat that might be magical and an old abandoned building that seems to be just the right place to spend their summer before high school. As relationships between the four friends and others in the neighborhood shift and change, Cody has to figure out what the hat is telling him and whether to listen. And Justin must decide whether to try to think and speak for himself or give up before he ever gets started. Cass has to learn to accept the changes that are inevitable. Ben needs to deal with the restlessness inside him. Jemmie just wants to enjoy the summer and then head for high school, new people, and new adventures.

I liked this book a lot. I’m not sure the pacing is just right for some readers. The book sort of moseys along like a long, hot summer. And the way it’s arranged in chapters from different characters’ viewpoints made it hard at first for me to keep the characters straight. The chapters from the point of view of the teens–Cass, Jemmie, Justin, and Ben—are written in first person, and the chapters told from Cody’s vantage point are all in third person. Because Cody’s so young, only six years old, and couldn’t really “tell” his parts of the story in a mature voice? Anyway, the shifting voices and the slow pace might throw some readers off, but I didn’t have any trouble sticking with it and becoming engrossed.

Ben is reading To Kill a Mockingbird for summer reading, and there’s a bit of a TKAM feeling to this story: a neighborhood story with kids trying to figure out an old mystery from way back, family history, serious stuff going on under the surface of a summer’s recreation. The neighborhood setting is in Tallahassee, Florida, where the author herself resides. And although one of the young people in the story, Jemmie, is black, there’s not really a hint of racial tension in the story, unlike TKAM.

However, I looked up the author, and learned that Some Kind of Magic is the sixth and final book in a series of books about the same neighborhood, called appropriately enough, The Neighborhood Novels. And the first book in the series, Crossing Jordan, is about Cass and Jemmie when they first met, and it definitely deals with racial tension and bridging the gap between white and black residents of this multi-racial neighborhood. I am really interested in reading the first five books in this series so that I can get the backstory of these characters and of other residents of The Neighborhood. Maybe that backstory would have helped me keep the characters straight as I began to read Some Kind of Magic. Still, I recommend this book on its own, and on the basis of having read this one, I also recommend that you look up the other books in the Neighborhood Novels series:

Crossing Jordan
Anna Casey’s Place in the World “Anna Casey must deal with the loss of her family and adjust to living in a foster home. Feeling abandoned and alone, Anna turns to her closest companion, her explorer journal.”
My Brother’s Hero “When his aunt and uncle win a Christmas cruise Ben and his family are off to watch their marina in the Florida Keys. This is Ben’s chance to live aboard a boat, swim and snorkel, fish for the big ones, and have some adventures for a change.”
The Big Nothing “When everyone in his life lets him down, Justin Riggs discovers something inside himself—a hidden talent that helps him survive.”
The Sorta Sisters “Anna and Mica have the same problem. They’re both lonely. Although separated by the entire state of Florida, they keep each other company through the exchange of letters and strange and sometimes mystifying objects.”
Some Kind of Magic

Yep. Gotta add these to the TBR list.

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From Semicolon
The Faraway Lurs by Harry Behn

Book #3 for the 48-hour Book Challenge
190 pages, 2 hours

First of all, what are lurs? A lur is “a Bronze-Age musical instrument in the form of a conical tube that is roughly S-shaped, without finger holes. It is end blown, like a trumpet, and sounds something like a trombone. Lurs often come in pairs, so they are often referred to in the plural.”

The Faraway Lurs, published in 1963, honored by ALA as a “notable book”, is a book I read back in the day when I was a teen. I didn’t remember much about it, but I did think it was notable in my reading past as a story with a different setting and feel from most historical fiction set in the distant past. Most fiction based on ancient history is either set in Egypt, Palestine, Greece or the Roman Empire. This one has an early Bronze Age setting in Denmark, about 3000 years ago.

The romantic protagonists are Heather Goodshade of the Forest People tribe and Wolf Stone, a young chieftain’s son from the tribe of the invading Sun People. A Romeo and Juliet story ensues, as Heather and Wolf Stone fall in love and try to bring their two very different tribal cultures together in peace so that they can be together as man and wife. Wolf Stone’s people are savage savages, worshippers of the Sun God and very warlike and violent both within the tribe and toward outsiders. Heather’s people are more gentle savages, but still the ending of the book demonstrates that even Heather’s gentle forest tribe is in cruel bondage to the whims of their “gentle” gods, an ancient Tree and a whispering Spring.

Of course, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, and The Faraway Lurs, drawn from the discovery of a burial mound for a young beautiful Stone Age/early Bronze Age girl, ends in tragedy, too, as any reader who read the introduction, where Mr. Behn tells about the discovery that inspired his novel, would know. The girl in the burial mound died young, and so does Heather Goodshade. How that tragic ending comes about is the hook upon which the novel hangs, so I won’t tell you any more.

This book would be good for teens who are studying ancient history, lending to that study a different perspective and a different cultural understanding. The ancient world wasn’t all pharaohs and Roman legions. And it would be to pair the novel with a viewing of Romeo and Juliet and then a comparison of the two stories. There’s nothing sexually explicit in the novel, and the violence is mostly off-stage or described in unobjectionable but straightforward language. The presentation of the tribal cultures themselves would lend itself to a discussion of the need for all humanity in all its tribes and cultures to be redeemed, saved from our propensity toward sin, brutality, and idolatry. Particularly, as I compare Behn’s story with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and with the recent event of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, I am reminded of how human sin and prejudice is only covered over by civilization with a very thin veneer. Our idols continue to betray us; our desire for both power and safety continues to lead us into sin and tragedy; and our separation from God continues to play out in divisions between the people He created as we do violence to ourselves and to others in futile attempts to heal the breach or destroy the other.

May God have mercy upon us all.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From Semicolon
All the Answers by Kate Messner

Book #2 for the 48-hour Book Challenge
246 pages, 3 hours

Ava Anderson finds an old blue pencil in her family’s junk drawer. I doesn’t look special, but it is. Ava’s pencil can answer written questions with an audible voice that only Ava can hear. And the pencil always provides the right answer! The pencil can’t or won’t predict the future, but its answers to factual questions are uncanny in their accuracy. But does Ava really want to know all the answers to her fears and worries? What if the answers are scarier than the questions? What if the answers only create more questions?

I really enjoyed reading about Ava and all her worries and her magic pencil with almost all of the answers. I thought the pencil magic was timely in its similarity to the way we all turn to Google for all our answers these days. The pencil was a little more all-knowing than Google, but it still couldn’t predict the future or lay to rest all of Ava’s worries. I am as guilty as the next person of wanting to find someone or something that will answer all my questions and give me some concrete advice about what to do in sticky situations. But the truth is that only God is omniscient, and since He is, He probably has good reasons for not showering all the answers on us.

The book mentions prayer. Ava has a praying grandma. Ava herself learns to trust a little in her own bravery and competence and a little in the care and goodwill of family and friends. Near the end of the book, she does pray with her grandma, but it’s not a big epiphany or turning point in her growth as a character. Mostly the book is about learning to let go of your worries and fears and trust something. That “something” is never really defined. It’s about learning to live without all the answers, a feat we all need to accomplish, but one that is very hard to do without believing in an all-powerful, all-knowing, good God who has not only the answers but also the ability to work all things together for His glory and our good.

Anyway, there’s lots to discuss here, and the author in her acknowledgements even recommends a self-help book for kids who worry too much: What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner. I’ve not seen the self-help book, but it might be worth a look if you or your child is a worrier. Or you could just follow the guidance in this hymn, like Ava’s grandmother: take it the Lord in prayer.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From ALIEN SOIL
Trust in God and the ‘how long?’



Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Psalm 35:1 (ESV) 

Our nation is in rapid moral and spiritual decline. There’s not many left arguing against this thought. The shift in our nation’s spiritual climate in just the past 25 years has been jarring for most believers. Thankfully, American Christians are not currently suffering any real persecution, contrary to some arguments, however, the day looks much closer than it did when I was a younger man. In other parts of the world, though, persecution is a daily reality. 

How should we respond? There are various ways and no shortage of opinions. In reading, Psalm 35, David provides a model for us. Facing imminent (physical) harm, David cried out to our heavenly Father for help. 

He shows us in his prayer we can’t win this battle on our own. Instead, we need God to contend on our behalf. 

First, we simply ask God to fight for us. How often we overlook this and skip straight to our own methods, our own plots, our own schemes, leaning on our own understanding. We are small, however. God is infinite. 

Next, we pray the schemes of the wicked would fail, that they would suffer shame, and, ultimately, destruction. Of course, we desire everyone to repent and follow Christ. But the reality is, our protection means harm for our pursuers. In this, we are not to be vindictive, but instead to pray for our enemies as Jesus instructed. Praying for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts of stone and make them hearts of flesh, but ultimately, trusting that God is the ultimate judge, not us. Hear more about this from (the much smarter and more eloquent) John Piper, below.



Third, believe. We trust God will deliver His children. Scripture is rife with these promises from Genesis to Revelation. Do we trust God and his word? He. Will. Deliver. He shows us this in the cross. We can trust His faithfulness because the promise He made to Adam and Eve and all throughout the Old Testament is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He lived the life we could not live. He took the wrath for sin that was ours to take. He rose from the dead, defeating our ultimate enemy in death. If we can’t trust this, we have no hope for any other battle in life.

Proclaiming this faithfulness is the apex of Psalm 35 as well as the apex of our lives and all battles. We should proclaim this faithfulness to ourselves and to the nations.

In the meantime, we long for the defeat of evil. We long for God to rescue us from those who would pursue us and wish us harm (seemingly more and more of our culture actually does seek our harm). Unfortunately, we live in the very present world and waiting is hard. Joining David, we cry out with the familiar refrain of ‘how long?’

How long until rescue? How long until things are set right?

It’s not an easy wait, but trusting in God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ defeat of Satan, sin, and death is necessary. Take heart. Our perfect father has won the victory for his rebellious kids.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Ah.

I went back and relistened to the details. Younger millennials are defined to be 11 years old or younger when 9/11/01 happened. So they are old enough to notice trends already. That age/event linking is important because that means they don’t really remember a pre-9/11 world.

OK, that makes more sense… people born > 1990 would be up through age 25, with their formative church experiences in the 2000s. Thanks for checking!

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Age

I went back and relistened to the details. Younger millennials are defined to be 11 years old or younger when 9/11/01 happened. So they are old enough to notice trends already. That age/event linking is important because that means they don’t really remember a pre-9/11 world.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

If I recall correctly, Triablogue was one of the blogs with which we used to spar back in the day. But today is not the day for that. I just learned that his wife passed suddenly. If you’re of a praying mind, remember his family today.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Hi. I still exist but I’m also months behind on my project thesis and thus barely a person.

I have no hard data for what I’m about to say, but when has that ever stopped someone from blogging anything.

The data on evangelicals and mainlines shouts one thing to me: many of the mainline losses are jumping ship to non-denominational evangelical churches. Support for this is purely anecdotal but, in the words of someone I spoke with in February, “The second biggest denomination in the US is ‘used-to-be Methodist.’”

From The Boar's Head Tavern

John, I saw that comic making the rounds, too. Part of me wants to say “right on” to it. Another part of me questions whether or not some of the “meh” people are still Christian, but tired of the effects of moralism and Fundamentalism that grow like mold in the evangelical sphere.

I haven’t made up my mind on adam4d yet. I’ll stick with Coffee With Jesus.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Teenage Wasteland

But he said that the data shows that younger millennials (defined to be those born after 2000), evangelicals are dropping dramatically and orthodox and Catholic are increasing. He concluded that these younger millennials are the first generation to grow up fully and completely in the seeker movement of Evangelicalism, are tired and suspicious of it, and are leaving it.

Those born after 2000… would just barely be teenagers, right? We’re seeing a dramatic movement from the evangelical church into Orthodoxy and Catholicism among the 13-14-year-old set?

While quibbling with the details of the demographic, the narrative of “grew up fully in seeker-driven evangelicalism, are tired of it, and are leaving” is something I’m sympathetic to. Even though I’m older than that and grew up in familiar old 90′s Left Behind/AIG/TrueLoveWaits evangelicalism, the move from proof-texting me-and-Jesus relationship to a more full-bodied understanding of the faith is so desirable.

As a complete side note, I saw a sola scriptura guy on Twitter the other day argue that if smart people have interpreted Scripture one way for centuries, then dismissing the interpretation as bigoted/idiotic is in itself a bigoted/idiotic act.

I get what he’s getting at… but isn’t that a huge appeal to tradition that undercuts sola scriptura? Or am I seriously misunderstanding something?

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Jason:

I wonder if for some evangelicals, not declining as fast as those “backslidden mainliners” equates to growth.

See also the kind of thinking going on in this cartoon that was doing the rounds on Facebook recently. (Confession/disclaimer: I find Adam4d comics insufferably pious; to the extent where I’ve posted on this thread largely as an excuse finally to get that statement out of my system… ;-) )

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I wonder if for some evangelicals, not declining as fast as those “backslidden mainliners” equates to growth. What reporting on the stats doesn’t often tell us, and what I’ve heard from a few missions-oriented types, is that the only growth in the Church in North America is happening among immigrant and minority populations. I have no data to confirm that. The funny thing is that as I continue pondering the madness of a church plant of some kind where I live, when I consider all the people I know to ask if they’d be interested, a growing number have become tired of evangelical as usual, but wouldn’t be comfortable in a mainline setting. In all that, they still want to maintain some kind of connection with Jesus and Jesus people.

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Michael was right

There has been much discussion about the latest Pew research study that shows the religious “nones” continuing to grow in America. My dad told me with great pride that evangelicals are the only group that is growing. I have no clue where he heard that, but I can’t seem to find that in the data. Joe Carter made a similar assertion and got into one of his infamous twitter wars about it, but the whole argument seemed so convoluted, I stopped trying to figure out what the heck Joe was trying to prove.

But my pastor at Emmaus dove into the data and said some interesting things (website includes sermon, if you’re curious). He looked into the data carefully. He noted that for most age groups, the evangelical slice of the pie is decreasing slightly. This includes the older half of the millennials. But he said that the data shows that younger millennials (defined to be those born after 2000), evangelicals are dropping dramatically and orthodox and Catholic are increasing. He concluded that these younger millennials are the first generation to grow up fully and completely in the seeker movement of Evangelicalism, are tired and suspicious of it, and are leaving it.

Which if everything he’s saying is correct, then Michael was right.

I tried (not too hard) to dive into the data and see this for myself. But my pastor is harding working than I.

From Jared C. Wilson
The Invitation of The Gospel

“Dear God, the treasures of thy love
Are everlasting mines,
Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins.

“The happy gates of gospel grace
Stand open night and day,
Lord, we are come to seek supplies,
And drive our wants away.”

— Isaac Watts, “The Invitation of the Gospel”

From Jared C. Wilson
They Believe God Is The Only One Who Wants Them

Cambodia_CNT_24oct12_rex_bSo Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
– John 6:67-68

I had the great privilege once of preaching at a conference where one of the other speakers was Sharon Hersh, adjunct professor of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. A story she told during her talk on “The Gift of Suffering: God’s Compulsion for Our Liberation” was one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard.

Dr. Hersh recalled visiting a village in a region of Cambodia once strong with the Khmer Rouge, which of course gave the Cambodians the evil Pol Pot and were responsible for enough torture and murder to constitute genocide. The people in this village, Hersh said, never venture far from home. Most of them have never been outside the village. It is too dangerous. While the days of the Khmer Rouge appear to be gone, the pain and anger is of course not. To be identified with the Khmer Rouge in any way is to risk one’s life. So these villagers are cast-offs, prisoners in their own land, hated for the presumed sins of their fathers.

Hersh said that a Christian church service in the village might have been one of the most vibrant experiences of worship she’d witnessed. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much confession, so much exaltation of and desire for God. They were excited, expectant, enthusiastic, enthralled. “Is it always like this?” she asked a local.

“Yes,” came the reply. “They believe that God is the only one that wants them. And so they want him.”

That phrase—They believe God is the only one that wants them—was so heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time. “To be totally known,” Dr. Hersh said later, “and still to be wanted is the way to liberation.” I know that this gospel truth has made all the difference in my own life.

… You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
—Psalm 69:32-33

From Out of the Bloo
“And they devoted themselves . . .”

This is based on a short talk I gave at our college lifegroup night of worship last night.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

- Acts 2:42-47

I’ve read this passage hundreds of times. Today as I read it again I noticed the first four words as if for the first time: “And they devoted themselves”.

One truism about people in general (and perhaps young people in particular) is that many of us are looking for something to devote ourselves to. Something worthwhile. Something meaningful. Something we can live for and die for. You may be feeling that today.

Acts 2:42-47 is an invitation to devote yourselves. To set aside this summer to taking new steps, large steps in your relationship to Jesus. If you are in Christ, it’s an invitation to own your faith more, to devote yourself to Jesus more fully and more deeply than ever before. If you aren’t yet a believer in Christ, what better time than tonight to take that first step? Let’s speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to each other. I deserve God’s wrath for what I’ve done in life, to be separated forever from Him in hell. Yet he devoted himself to the salvation of me and you and to the salvation of the whole world. He died the death I deserved to die and rose again in new, eternal life and offers me that as well! This is such good news, something that we can feast on together!

Lifegroup is not a house on one night; it’s a group of people who are alive. Our hope for College lifegroup is that it will be an experience in Jesus that you can devote yourself to this summer. Not just for yourself, but for others; to devote yourself to teaching and friendship together, to eating together, praying together, worshiping together, being in awe together, seeing God together, helping each other, sacrificing for each other, making your relationship to Jesus an every day thing, an all the time thing. Devoting yourself to being glad rather than angsty, generous rather than selfish, to praising God rather than idols, to being truly alive, and to watching the Lord add daily to you and to us and to himself those who are being saved.

That’s the invitation! We’re ready to devote ourselves to it, and I hope and pray you are too.

From Jared C. Wilson
14 Things I’ve Learned in 14 Years of Parenting

Our oldest turns 14 today. We are very proud of the sweet, creative, confident, smart, and entrepreneurial young woman Macy has become. In these last 14 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about parenting. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Parenting is hard.
2. Parenting is fun.
3. Parenting is confusing.
4. Parenting is exciting.
5. Parenting is boring.
6. Parenting is easy sometimes (not often).
7. Parenting is frustrating sometimes (more often).
8. Parenting is wonderful.
9. Parenting is sanctifying and the grounds for much worry-turned-prayer.
10. God is good.

Oh, you were expecting parenting advice? My personal rule of thumb is not to take most, if any, parenting advice from people whose kids aren’t fully grown human beings yet, and therefore I tend not to dish much out myself. Sorry about that.

Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, you will learn the tricky contextual nuance of that Proverb.

From The Living Room
places on the Internet where you can learn stuff!

I am a public librarian and so I like finding neat stuff to share with people. I also believe that learning is really important and you should keep it up over a lifetime; I’m also an active citizen of the Internet. All that to say, here’s a list of websites and YouTube channels you should visit–whether you’re a parent who wants your kid to retain their knowledge over the summer, or if you’re an endlessly curious adult like me:

Crash Course

Crash Course does 10-minute (give or take) videos about the humanities and science–right now, they’re running through astronomy, anatomy and physiology, government, and intellectual property law. Throw in some fun animations, plus jokes, and they manage to make even chemistry interesting (seriously!). (Bonus: The humanities track is hosted by John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars fame; the science track is hosted by his equally brilliant brother Hank.) They also have one geared for grade schoolers called (wait for it) Crash Course Kids.

SciShow

Factoids, news, quiz shows, answers to frequent questions (e.g., how does your hair know how to stop growing), show and tell with random animals (corn snakes! chinchillas! [not at the same time]). Also comes in a junior version, SciShow Kids, as well as an astronomy-exclusive version called SciShow Space.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Pride and Prejudice + 21st-century video blog + did I mention EMMY AWARD?

The Kid Should See This

If high-speed Internet had been a thing back when I was a kid, I would’ve probably parked myself in front of this site all the dang time. A mom and her two kids curate these videos that are (mostly) not specifically made for kids, but are super-great for kids anyway. A lot of them are STEAM-related, if you’re into that, but they’re mostly set up so that you’re not really aware that you’re learning. I’m currently obsessed with this:

What about you? Anything else I should know about?


From Jared C. Wilson
Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

Jean_II_Restout_-_PentecôteDid the Spirit not prowl the earth, seeking whom he may save before his coming at Pentecost? Is God’s Spirit not omnipresent? How did people love and obey God before Pentecost if we believe, as Jesus said, he would be sent after the Lord’s ascension?

John Piper explains with a neat illustration:

Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. The country folk downstream depended on it. They drank it, they washed in it, it watered their crops and turned their mill-wheels. They sailed on it in the moonlight and wrote songs about it. It was their life. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folk down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.

Well, Pentecost is like the dedicatory opening of the Aswan High Dam. Before Pentecost the river of God’s Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life. But after Pentecost the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world. None of the benefits enjoyed in the pre-Pentecostal days were taken away. But ten billion kilowatts were added to enable the church to take the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to every tongue and tribe and nation.

From fingerpost

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

-Helen Keller

From Jared C. Wilson
For The Church at SBC

mbts_sbc_ftc_tw
If you are attending the Southern Baptist Convention next month in Columbus, Ohio, I’d like to invite you to join me, Mark Dever, Matt Carter, Jason Allen, Ronnie Floyd, and Paige Patterson for our For The Church conference luncheon on June 16 at 11:45 a.m.

Each of us will be giving a short “TED talk”-like address on a particular topic, and we’ll also be giving away to all attendees Dever’s epic new work with Jonathan Leeman on Baptist foundations.

Just $10 if you register early.
Hope to see you there!

ftc_speaker-topics

From Jared C. Wilson
It Is God Who Justifies

5005665898_1cd56f72ee_oIt is God who justifies. — Romans 8:33

“Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ What can I need more? What more can I ask?

“If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies?

“How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing shall be laid to the charge of God’s elect. GOD Himself shall pronounce them fully, and forever justified: ‘And those He justifies, He also glorifies.'”

– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts (February 1)

From fingerpost

Five Basic Truths:

1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
2. God is Lord and King over his world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore him.
3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his children and to bless them accordingly.
4. God is triune; there are within the Godhead three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it.
5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.             This, and nothing else, is true religion.

-J.I. Packer, Knowing God

From The Living Room
psalm 27 (not quite a sonnet)

My heart would seek a hiding place,
A refuge strong against my foes;
So may I see Thy lovely face
And in my soul Thy praises grow.
Though armies rise to wage their war
Against my flesh and heart and mind,
Though all my kin forsake me, Lord,
A home in Thee I know I find.
So hear me as I cry to Thee
From depth of woe and war and pain;
Be faithful now to hear my plea,
That I may see Thy love again.
For in Life’s land, there Goodness dwells,
And there may I, by grace, as well.


From Jared C. Wilson
An Open Letter to Tom Brady

FullSizeRenderDear Tom,

Bro. Seriously. I love you, bro. And I take a lot of heat for it. I mean, like, an excessive amount of heat for it. But I don’t care. I am probably the only pastor outside of Boston to have a study full of Brady memorabilia. I love you like Gisele loves nature conservation. You must be protected, because you are an extremely valuable natural resource, the removal of which would upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem of awesomeness in the universe.

I’m writing this not as a BradyHater™, but as a full-on fanboy. You are my favorite sportsman ever — in any game, from any era. And I’ll tell you why. Your exceptional talent on the field is only matched by your exceptional work ethic. I love the way you command your teammates’ respect. And one thing I’ve always respected about you, up until now, is the leadership you’ve shown at the podiums and in front of the press. Unlike a lot of athletes of your stature, when things haven’t gone well on the field, you take responsibility. You don’t shift the blame to anybody else. And when you succeed, as you often do, you share the credit. This kind of leadership maturity is as rare as your talent.

So here’s the deal: I think you ought to do the right thing here and own up to wanting those footballs under-inflated, pressuring your equipment guys to handle that for you, and now insisting that you don’t know what anybody’s talking about. I think what you lose by doing that is much less than what you lose by not. And in any event, whatever is gained or lost, it’s just the right thing to do.

You and I both know that won’t win you any new fans. Your loyal opposition will always oppose you. But your fans will forgive you. Heck, I already do. I promise you — I already do forgive you. But I couldn’t root for you the same way, couldn’t talk you up to my grandkids like I planned to, couldn’t celebrate your championships as I have before, if you don’t do what real men do, which is take responsibility.

Tom, your reputation among many probably cannot be repaired, no matter what you do. I hate that for you. That’s just life, I guess. But I don’t believe “Deflategate” will tarnish your legacy in the eyes of fans like me if you’ll be brave enough to just get transparent with us. Confession of this kind won’t be the worst thing that happens to you in life, even though I’m sure it might feel that way at the moment.

But all the protection, all the spin, all the image management — it’s just making the situation worse. I know that once those footballs were restored to acceptable psi, your torching of the Colts only intensified. I know you beat the Seahawks in the big game fair and square. I know the pressure of those pigskins cannot account for the amazing things you’ve accomplished on the field over your long career, and perhaps have left to accomplish. But the longer you let this go on without owning up, the worse it’s going to get. It won’t go away. It will always haunt you.

So come into the light. We won’t hold it against you. And once you’re out here in the honest clear, I think you’ll find that huge weight off your shoulders, and I think you may see that trying to protect something you can’t keep anyway is a losing game.

I’m a big fat stinking sinner, so I can’t throw stones at you. I’ve done much worse than game the system to gain an advantage. But when I realized trying to protect my image was an ultimately devastating strategy, I embraced the forgiveness I’ve found in God, who through Jesus Christ forgave all my sin (1 John 1:9) and — get this — doesn’t even remember it any more (Isaiah 43:25). There’s real freedom in that light.

So anyways, just some thoughts. Love ya, bro.

Signed: Your biggest fan,

IMG_0754

From Jared C. Wilson
This Is My Manifesto

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo from Crossway on Vimeo.

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo is my newest book and the culmination of my thoughts on and practice of ministry over the last twenty years. It is also my most vulnerable book, and the only place where I tell my story of gospel wakefulness in fullest detail.

There are lots of rants out there against the so-called “attractional church.” I know I have engaged in my fair share. But I think the stakes are too high to simply preach to the Amen corner in the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement. My hope for this book is that it may challenge the status quo outside my own tribe, or at the very least, help men and women in the kinds of churches addressed in the book think through and even articulate some of their internal concerns and questions.

We have a great God who loves his church dearly. We have nothing to fear — any of us — in questioning our own assumptions about ministry and holding them up to the light of Scripture. But I also feature in the book research on the last three decades of the modern church movement’s effectiveness.

In The Prodigal Church, I simply want to thoughtfully and gently help brothers and sisters evaluate the way they do church. Because you don’t have to be a legalistic, traditionalist church to be stuck in the mindset of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

From Jared C. Wilson
The One Source of Total Salvation

Natural_springs1From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
— John 1:16

There is no end to the cascading blessings of grace flowing from our Savior Jesus Christ.

The finished work of Christ is that beautiful spring from which flows our forgiveness from sins, our justification before God, our receipt of Christ’s righteousness, our adoption as sons, our reconciliation with the Father, our reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, our sure sanctification, our grounds for the Spirit’s fruit, our position as a royal priesthood, our serving as Christ’s ambassadors in the advancing kingdom of God, our resurrection from the dead, our eternal reward, our enjoyment of the new heavens and the new earth, and our participatory witnesses of God’s restoration of all things.

The gospel of first importance produces a myriad of blessings I suppose that were every one of them to be written the world itself could not contain the books. Grand thing, then, that God is remaking the world to broadcast them best.

The large tree of salvation, with branches enough for bird of every kind and from every place, grows from the mighty mustard seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

From fingerpost


                                                                             
The first thing Christianity does is to make people think... The (Holy) Spirit always leads people to think. And, as I want to show you, the greatest trouble in life is that men and women do not think. They just go through life. They think for a moment but it is painful so they stop, moving on to a bottle of whiskey or television or something else; anything but to think. But that is unintelligent. Christianity is something that always calls upon you to think, to face facts, and to reason. The Spirit makes you do this; we will not do this until the Spirit makes us. And is it not obvious that the world is in a spiritually and intellectually doped condition? Men and women are just evading the facts. They do it in all sorts of ways. They can be very, very energetic in doing it, they can be very intellectual, but ultimately they are not facing the facts and they always end with nothing.

- Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

From Jared C. Wilson
No Little Disturbances!

pouli-in-ephesus
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. — Acts 19:23

These men who have turned the world upside down . . . — Acts 17:6

We desperately need to change the subject in our cities. The Church has become wallpaper in too many of them. We recede into the background, staying indoors, safe and avoidable in our religious cubbyhole.

The Ephesian idolmakers rioted because they were put out of business, not by Christians protesting their industry in the parking lot, but by the pervasive spread of the gospel in the city.

We are not responsible for fruit. We are responsible for faithfulness.

God, no little disturbances, please. Please send big ones. Come down, disrupt, break things. Make us dust to breathe new life into us again. So that the Way may create no little disturbance for your glory again.

Help us to want what your servant Spurgeon calls “a glorious disorder.” Make us want to be bowled over. Cultivate astonishment in us.

Teach us how to and empower us to change the subject.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. — Titus 2:15

From The Living Room
for Your name’s sake.

Well! I seem to have taken an unintentional hiatus…

Things got even crazier after the last time I posted–I can’t really go into it here, but I hope it suffices to say that some people I love and I have been going through a lot of change and a lot of very difficult things, and God has been doing a lot of healing work, and a lot of tearing down of idols in the process.

My church does this thing called Kaleo College, where we link to some audio and we collectively listen to it and try to get together to talk about it. For this month and next month we’re listening to this class called The Bread of Adversity, based on Isaiah 30, and it’s been reframing how I’ve been thinking about suffering and the presence of God.

With all the chaos, too, there are signs of life: A couple of friends had a kid, another couple of friends are about to have their first kid, some other friends are in the thick of the foster-to-adopt process. Some friends just got engaged. I just ran a really fun program at the library where I work. I’m having a lot of good conversations with my new roommate, with other friends, and most importantly with Jesus.

I was thinking about Psalm 23, about how the shepherd’s rod and staff comfort us, and how even when I thought I’d been utterly abandoned by God at times, He was still there, protecting me, and guess what? As terrible as some things in my life have been, Jesus took the greater force of the impact for my sake. He dressed Himself in my shame, and my sorrow, and my sin. So if nothing else, in this season, I am learning not to be afraid, and I am learning to open up myself to other people for His name’s sake.